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WIREs Clim Change
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Polarized U.S. publics, Pope Francis, and climate change: Reviewing the studies and data collected around the 2015 Papal Encyclical

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Abstract As soon as it was clear that Pope Francis's 2015 Encyclical, Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home, would discuss, among other issues, the moral imperative to address global climate change, U.S. scholars and research institutions rushed to collect data surrounding its release. These groups aimed to determine whether there would be a “Francis Effect,” in which U.S. Conservatives (and Conservative Catholics in particular) would show greater concern about the negative effects of global climate change. Here, we first provide context by discussing the history of political polarization in the U.S. over global climate change. Then, we review the published literature and publicly available data that aimed to examine potential influences of Laudato Si’ on people's climate change attitudes. Taken together, the available scholarship provides strong evidence that U.S. publics were differentially responsive to the Pope's messaging (with political Conservatives expressing less climate change concern and viewing Pope Francis as less credible), but there is correlational evidence of an overall “Francis Effect.” U.S. population data collected following the encyclical's release show small, potentially temporary, increases in perceptions of papal credibility, climate change concern, and the perspective that global climate change is a moral issue. This article is categorized under: Trans‐Disciplinary Perspectives > Humanities and the Creative Arts Perceptions, Behavior, and Communication of Climate Change > Communication
Papal credibility mediates the relationship between being aware of the encyclical and agreeing with the Pope's messages. Furthermore, political ideology moderates the relationship between encyclical awareness and papal credibility such that Progressives who hear about the encyclical rate the Pope as being more credible and Conservatives who hear about the encyclical rate the Pope as being less credible. There was no direct relationship between encyclical awareness and agreeing with the Pope's messages (Landrum et al., 2017)
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Percent of respondents from Gallup Polls who report worrying “a great deal” about global warming or climate change from 2000 to 2019. Polls were conducted in March of each year. The release of the documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” in 2006 and the Papal Encyclical in 2015 are marked on the figure. Note that the data are correlational, and it cannot be stated with confidence that the upticks following the release of An Inconvenient Truth and Laudato Si' were caused by their release
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Perceptions, Behavior, and Communication of Climate Change > Communication
Trans-Disciplinary Perspectives > Humanities and the Creative Arts

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