Here’s how you can get conservatives to care about the environment

Here’s how you can get conservatives to care about the environment


Stop appealing to climate-change deniers with science and moral arguments, folks — it ain’t gonna work. Just get them worrying about their own health and the “purity” of their local environment. At least that’s how I’m reading this new study from UC Berkeley published today in the journal Psychological Science.

From the press release:

A UC Berkeley study has found that while people who identified themselves as conservatives tend to be less concerned about the environment than their liberal counterparts, their motivation increased significantly when they read articles that stressed the need to “protect the purity of the environment” and were shown such repellant images as a person drinking dirty water, a forest filled with garbage, and a city under a cloud of smog …

“These findings offer the prospect of pro-environmental persuasion across party lines,” said Robb Willer, a UC Berkeley social psychologist and coauthor of the study. “Reaching out to conservatives in a respectful and persuasive way is critical, because large numbers of Americans will need to support significant environment reforms if we are going to deal effectively with climate change, in particular.”

The researchers found that conservatives weren’t so motivated by the greater good, but rather by concerns about the the purity of their bodies and the Earth, patriotic arguments, and reverence for a higher authority (Father Earth?). Basically we need a lot more stock images of dirty drinking water.

Overall, the study found that the purity-themed message inspired conservatives to feel higher levels of disgust, which in turn increased their support for protecting the environment.

Incidentally, I too am now feeling higher levels of disgust. Hm!

Susie Cagle writes and draws news for Grist. She also writes and draws tweets for



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Here’s how you can get conservatives to care about the environment

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