Building Social Consensus on Climate Response: The Role of Social (Mis)perception and Identity

Leviston, Z. (Edith Cowan University)

How societies collectively respond to climate change is profoundly important, yet social and political debate about appropriate policy response remains highly divisive. There is growing evidence that such divisions shape, and are shaped by, psychologically-driven misperceptions about others’ climate adaptation response preferences. The role that group-based processes play in shaping these misperceptions is currently under-explored. This project sought to empirically establish the extent to which social perception influences support for adaptation policies, and vice-versa; and explore the potential role of group influence and identification in shaping these responses. Two surveys (N = 302; N = 2,013) explored community attitudes towards a range of current and potential climate adaptation policy responses. Results suggest that, while support for policy implementation is high, people’s perceptions of the broader social support these policies enjoy is consistently underestimated. Further, patterns of misperceptions appear dependent on social group affiliations, including political affiliations. The influence of these misperceptions on the legitimacy of implementing climate adaptation policy is discussed.

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Applied Social Psychology