Epistemic Engagement: Examining Personal Epistemology and Engagement Preferences with Climate Change in Oregon

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Climatic Change

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Engaging politically polarized publics surrounding climate science is a vital element in the effort to enact climate mitigation policy. Science communication experts have identified several models of public engagement with science, including the deficit, dialogue, participation, and lay expertise model. Existing research suggests that the deficit model in particular is a largely ineffective model of engagement for controversial science like climate change. There is very little research, however, regarding the engagement preferences of political groups, or how those preferences differ. This study assesses preferences for climate change engagement in the state of Oregon in the United States and examines the relationship between those preferences and epistemic beliefs about climate science. Overall, we find that liberals are significantly more likely than moderates or conservatives to view climate science as certain and simple and to rely on expert knowledge more than their own direct experience. By contrast, conservatives are significantly more likely than liberals or moderates to view climate science as uncertain and complex and to rely on their own direct experience over the knowledge of content experts. We also find that perceived certainty and simplicity are positive predictors of a preference for the deficit model of science communication. Implications for public engagement with climate change and suggestions for future research are discussed.


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