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Youth and Climate Change

By Juliet Eilperin

Contrary to popular belief, young people are not more politically engaged on the issue of climate change than older Americans, according to a new climate poll conducted by researchers at American, Yale and George Mason universities.

The researchers found "adults under the age of 35 are significantly less likely than their elders to say that they had thought about global warming before today, with nearly a quarter (22%) of under 35's saying they had never thought about the issue previously. Only 38% of those between the ages of 18 and 34 say that they had previously thought about global warming either "a lot" (10%) or "some" (28%), compared to 51% of those 35-59 and 44% of those 60 and older."

"In addition, the issue of global warming is not considered of any greater personal importance to under 35's than it is to those 35 and older. Seventeen percent of adults under 35 say that the issue of global warming is either extremely or very important to them, a proportion that is statistically equivalent to the 20% of those 35-59 and 22% of those 60 and older who say this."

Matthew C. Nisbet, an assistant professor in AU's School of Communication, blogs about what news sources young people trust when it comes to climate change. It turns out, he writes, "only 33% under the age of 35 trust the news media as a source of information about climate change, a proportion lower than any other age group. This proportion is also only slightly higher than the 27% of those under 35 who trust Sarah Palin on climate change."

Nisbet spoke about the issue Monday night at the American Forum, an event sponsored jointly by AU and WAMU. (A quick disclosure: I was one of the panelists on the program.) You can see a short clip here:

Also, WAMU has posted the downloadable MP3 of the broadcast, and there is archived video of the event at the discussion and social media site that students put together.


Juliet Eilperin

 |  March 2, 2010; 5:29 PM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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No doubt a call to arms for Eilperin and other advocacy "journalists." Keep flogging that dead horse!

Posted by: silencedogoodreturns | March 3, 2010 3:41 PM
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This study is interesting, but I think the first paragraph of your post is a bit misleading.

The real question, after all, is not whether the general population of young people is politically engaged on climate, but whether politically engaged young people -- the youth who helped run the Obama campaign, who are staffing Senate offices, and leading advocacy groups -- see climate as a top priority. Remember, only 50% or so of youth voted in the 2008 election.

Those are the youth who have the power to shift the political landscape. And it's my bet that politically engaged youth see building a clean energy economy as one of their top priorities.

Posted by: jamie350 | March 2, 2010 8:08 PM
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