Want to sell a skeptic on global warming? Call it ‘climate change’

Pollsters and commentators often use the terms “global warming” and “climate change” interchangeably, but which words are used can make a real difference in discussions of the issue, Tom Jacobs reports at Miller-McCune. Citing research published in Public Opinion Quarterly (subscription required), Jacobs said Republicans especially seem influenced by the choice of one phrase or the other.

A University of Michigan team inserted a question on the subject into a larger survey. Half the respondents were asked, “You may have heard about the idea that the world’s temperature may have been going up over the past 100 years, a phenomenon sometimes called ‘global warming.’ What is your personal opinion regarding whether or not this has been happening?” The rest were asked the same question, except the words “going up” were replaced by “changing,” and the term “global warming” was replaced by “climate change.”

Among self-described Democrats, the choice of phrase made little difference: More than 86 percent believe something is happening, whatever it’s called. Independents were only slightly more likely to acknowledge climate change (74 percent) as opposed to global warming (69.5 percent).

Among Republicans, however, the difference was stark. Only 44 percent believe in global warming, compared to 60.2 percent who say climate change is occurring.