Mobilizing Political Action on Climate Change

Averting the worst impacts of climate change requires immediate government action in wealthy, high-emitting countries like the United States. Today, these policy changes are no longer limited by technical know-how, but rather by a lack of political will. This project will test how to mobilize Americans to push for the systemic climate action that we, and especially the world’s poorest people, so badly need. 

The project studies two possible barriers to political action on climate change. In a first experiment, researchers will study whether building hope about the efficacy of political climate action can spur engagement. They will study two forms of efficacy beliefs: 1) collective efficacy, or citizens’ belief in their collective power to affect climate policy, and 2) self-efficacy, or one’s belief in their own abilities to engage politically with climate change. Prior work in environmental psychology finds that efficacy beliefs significantly predict pro-environmental action, and a long-standing literature in political science has documented the links between political efficacy beliefs and political engagement. The researchers will target collective efficacy with an animated video that builds hope about the potential success of a climate movement, and they will build self-efficacy with an informational intervention on how to contact one’s legislators. In a second experiment with new participants, researchers will randomly assign participants to watch a pro-climate lifestyle campaign, testing the common idea that campaigns focusing on reducing one’s personal carbon footprint reduce later engagement with political action. The researchers will test impacts on the ground in both experiments by observing participants’ engagement in a series of real-world political climate actions.

RFP Cycle:
Fall 2021
United States of America
  • Hannah Ruebeck
  • Lucy Page
  • Full project