Skip to main content

Views on Climate Change Swayed By Weather

Voters casting their ballots in voting booths. (Image credit: Associated Press)

Independent voters shift their views on climate change with the weather, new research suggests.

During cold snaps, Independents tend to be more skeptical of human-caused global warming than they are on unseasonably warm days, which seem to make them believers, according to a study published in the journal Weather, Climate, and Society. Democrats and Republicans stuck to their climate-change beliefs regardless of short-term weather changes.

"Independent voters were less likely to believe that climate change was caused by humans on unseasonably cool days, and more likely to believe that climate change was caused by humans on unseasonably warm days," said study author Lawrence Hamilton, a sociologist at the University of New Hampshire, in a statement.

Previous studies have also shown that global warming belief depends on weather.

To see if there was a connection, the team looked 10 random-sample phone surveys conducted by the Granite State Poll between 2010 and 2012, with a total of 5,000 New Hampshire voters. The phone interviews asked respondents to choose between three options: climate change is happening now, caused mainly by humans; climate change is not happening; or it is happening, but mostly due to natural causes. [The Reality of Climate Change: 10 Myths Busted]

They then correlated the dates of those phone calls with temperature and precipitation data drawn from the U.S. Historical Climatology Network. 

While Republicans and Democrats stuck to their views, self-identified Independents shifted their views with the weather.

"The shift was dramatic. On the coolest days, belief in human-caused climate change dropped below 40 percent among Independents. On the hottest days, it increased above 70 percent," Hamilton said in a statement.

Though it may be human nature to tie weather to climate change, that isn't scientific. An individual storm or warm front can't be attributed to climate change, because weather patterns happen over short time periods, while climate change is a long-term trend. On average, climate change may bring more extreme weather.

Follow LiveScience on Twitter @livescience. We're also on Facebook & Google+

Tia Ghose
Tia has interned at Science News,, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and has written for the Center for Investigative Reporting, Scientific American, and ScienceNow. She has a master's degree in bioengineering from the University of Washington and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California Santa Cruz.