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Bringing ideology in: the conservative white male effect on worry about environmental problems in the USA

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Extending existing scholarship on the white male effect in risk perception, we examine whether conservative white males (CWMs) are less worried about the risks of environmental problems than are other adults in the US general public. We draw theoretical and analytical guidance from the identity-protective cognition thesis explaining the white male effect and from recent political psychology scholarship documenting the heightened system-justification tendencies of political conservatives. We utilize public opinion data from nine Gallup surveys between 2001 and 2010, focusing on both a single-item indicator and a composite measure of worry about environmental problems. We find that CWMs indeed have significantly lower worry about environmental problems than do other Americans. Furthermore, the results of our multivariate regression models reveal that this CWMs effect remains significant when controlling for the direct effects of political ideology, race, and gender and the effects of nine social, demographic, and temporal control variables – as well as the effect of individuals generalized (nonenvironmental) risk perceptions. We conclude that the white male effect is due largely to CWMs, and that the latters low level of concern with environmental risks is likely driven by their social commitment to prevent new environmental regulations and repeal existing ones.
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Keywords: environmental problems; gender; political ideology; race; white male effect

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Lyman Briggs College, Department of Sociology, Environmental Science and Policy Program, Michigan State University, East Lansing,MI, USA 2: Department of Sociology,Oklahoma State University, Stillwater,OK, USA

Publication date: 2013-02-01

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