Only one in five of Generation X in USA concerned about climate change

While the USA suffers record-shattering heatwaves, a new study of Generation X adults surveyed in 2011 shows just 5% are “alarmed” and 18% “concerned” by climate change.

66% of the adults surveyed said they were not even sure global warming was happening.

Around 1 in 5 Generation Xers in the US are unconcerned by climate change (Source: veni markovski/Creative Commons)

“Most Generation Xers are surprisingly disengaged, dismissive or doubtful about whether global climate change is happening and they don’t spend much time worrying about it,” says Jon Miller, author of the ‘Generation X Report’.

Generation X is the term used to describe the generation born after the post-World War II baby boom, between 1961 and 1981. Adults are now between 32 and 52 years of age.

The report, conducted by the University of Michigan, compares attitudes between 2009 and 2011 to examine the levels of concern this generation has for climate change, and also where they source their information.

Compared to 2009, there has been a decline in the level of attention and concern about climate change in this generation. 22% said they followed the issue very or moderately in 2009, but only 16% said the same in 2011.

“This is an interesting and unexpected profile,” said Miller. “Few issues engage a solid majority of adults in our busy and pluristic society, but the climate issue appears to attract fewer committed activists – on either side – than I would have expected.”

The study offers several reasons why Generations X could be disinterested in climate change. Often, it says, public interest is shaped by other issues competing for attention at the same time.  The ongoing economic crisis has led to much focus on financial issues in recent years.

The study also points to subject fatigue as a reason for disinterest. The longer an issue is around, the less people want to hear about it.

Because climate change is such a complex issue, the study finds education and scientific knowledge could be partly influencing levels of concern on the topic. So adults with more education are likely to be more alarmed or concerned about climate change, according to Miller.

The study also found partisan affiliations could predict attitudes – nearly half the Democrats asked were alarmed or concerned compared to 0% of Republicans.

“Climate change is an extremely complex issue, and many Generation X adults do not see it as an immediate problem that they need to address,” says Miller.

“These results will not give great comfort to either those deeply concerned about climate issues or those who are dismissive of the issue.”

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