How do we understand political polarization within the U.S. climate change debate? This article unpacks the different components of the debate to determine the source of the political divide that is so noted in the mainstream media and academic literatures. Through analysis of the content of congressional hearings on the issue of climate change, we are able to explain political polarization of the issue more fully. In particular, our results show that, contrary to representations in the mainstream media, there is increasing consensus over the science of the issue. Discussions of the type of policy instrument and the economic implications of regulating carbon dioxide emissions, however, continue to polarize opinion. This article concludes by exploring how these findings help us understand more recent political events around climate change.

Fisher, Dana R., Waggle, Joseph & Leifeld, Philip
Where Does Political Polarization Come From? Locating Polarization Within the U.S. Climate Change Debate
Page range
70 - 92
Issue number
Date / Year
Nov 2012
American Behavioral Scientist