Most Americans underestimate minorities' environmental concerns—even minorities

October 29, 2018, Cornell University
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

A new study shows most Americans underestimate just how concerned minorities and lower-income people are about environmental threats, including members of those groups.

These misperceptions contradict significant research that shows racial and ethnic minorities and the poor are consistently among the most worried about , said co-author Jonathon Schuldt, associate professor of communication at Cornell University.

"What really surprised us was just how paradoxical the results were," he said. "We found a very consistent pattern that if the American public thought a group was very low in concern, in fact that same group was reporting high levels of concern."

The study, "Diverse Segments of the U.S. Public Underestimate the Environmental Concerns of Minority and Low-Income Americans," was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It also found most Americans associate the term "environmentalist" most closely with whites and the well-educated.

Schuldt and his co-authors attribute the findings to stereotypes in American culture. For example, there's a misperception that people with lower incomes have more pressing needs and don't have the luxury to worry about . However, poorer people and of color consistently report the opposite, perhaps because they are typically the hardest hit by environmental challenges.

The researchers conducted an online survey of a nationally representative sample of 1,200 Americans about their levels of concern for the environment, whether they identified as an environmentalist, and the age, socioeconomic class and race they associated with the term "environmentalist."

The findings could have practical implications for environmental advocacy and policy. If policymakers, scholars and practitioners endorse similar views, these misperceptions may influence which groups' perspectives get prioritized and may contribute to the historical marginalization of minority and lower-income populations.

Explore further: Climate change less politicized among minority groups

More information: Adam R. Pearson et al, Diverse segments of the US public underestimate the environmental concerns of minority and low-income Americans, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2018). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1804698115

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3 comments

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Shootist
5 / 5 (3) Oct 29, 2018
breaking people down into tribal units will inevitably lead to violence.

more reasonably, environmental concerns are an issue for all. membership in a group notwithstanding.
EyeNStein
not rated yet Oct 30, 2018
Most Americans underestimate anything that isn't in their own personal back yard.
rrwillsj
not rated yet Oct 30, 2018
I think the boat has sailed on tribalism in the United States. The Bogus POTUS usyrumpenella is in full fledged "Witch Doctor" howling snake-charmer dance to encourage fear and hate across America. As he channels the evil spirit of adolf hitler.

Yeah, the rotten fruit does not fall far from the blighted tree.

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