Oregon State University Researchers Find Conservatives Are Persuaded of Climate Change by Tornadoes

Conservatives who have been impacted by extreme weather more likely to support climate policies.

Tornado hits Northeast Portland. July 1, 2019. (KATU News)

Conservatives are more likely to support action to fight climate change if they report being harmed by extreme weather events, Oregon State University researchers found in a study published this month in the journal Global Environmental Change.

The OSU researchers surveyed 1,600 residents in 10 communities across the United States with at least four fatalities due to extreme weather from 2012 to 2015.

"There's been a lot of speculation that extreme weather could have this impact," said Hilary Boudet, an OSU public policy professor. "Now we have evidence that personal harm may be moving the needle on a person's beliefs, particularly those with more conservative political orientations."

The survey did not explicitly link weather to climate change, so the researchers believe people were making the connection on their own.

"It is also important to note that we considered a range of extreme weather events in this study, such as floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires and hurricanes, and this relationship between harm and support for climate change mitigation policy held across all event types," said Chad Zanocco, the lead author who worked on the project as an OSU doctoral student and is now a post-doctoral scholar at Stanford University.

"This is surprising because some extreme weather events, such as tornadoes, have a relatively low scientific link to climate change." Liberals surveyed were generally supportive of climate change policies whether they'd been personally impacted or not.

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