March 09, 2011
The research, conducted by psychologists at the University of Michigan, found that 44 percent of Republicans endorsed the idea that "global warming" is real, whereas 60 percent believed in "climate change." Among self-described Democrats the difference in wording was negligible: 86.9 percent vs. 86.4 percent.
The question wording experiment was based on 2,261 responses. Overall 74 percent of respondents believed "climate change" was real, while 68 percent believed in "global warming."
Tom Jacobs of Miller-McCune describes the experiment's methodology:
Schuldt and his co-authors, Sara Konrath and Norbert Schwarz, inserted a question into the 2009 American Life Panel survey, conducted by the RAND Corporation. Most of the 2,261 panelists were recruited from respondents to the Survey of Consumer Attitudes conducted by the University of Michigan.
Half responded to this statement: “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 other half were presented with that exact same statement, except the words “going up” were replaced by “changing,” and the term “global warming” was replaced by “climate change.” All then reported their belief on a seven-point scale, from “Definitely has not been happening” to “Definitely has been happening.”
"Global warming entails a directional prediction of rising temperatures that is easily discredited by any cold spell" they write, "whereas 'climate change' lacks a directional commitment and easily accommodates unusual weather of any kind."
Jonathon P. Schuldt, Sara H. Konrath, and Norbert Schwarz. "Global warming" or "climate change"? Whether the planet is warming depends on question wording. Public Opinion Quarterly (2011) 75(1): 115-124 first published online February 21, 2011 doi:10.1093/poq/nfq073