Aaron M. McCright
Associate Professor of Sociology, Lyman Briggs College, Department of Sociology, Environmental Science and Policy Program, Michigan State University
919 East Shaw Lane
East Lansing, MI 48825
Areas of Expertise & Civic InvolvementsMcCright has investigated the political dynamics of climate change since the mid-1990s. His current work analyzes the political dynamics and public understanding of climate science and policy in the United States, focusing primarily on organized climate change denial and political polarization on climate change in the U.S. general public. For this work, he was named a 2007 Kavli Frontiers Fellow in the National Academy of Sciences. He is a Lead Author of a chapter on climate change skepticism and denial for the American Sociological Association’s Task Force on Sociology and Global Climate Change.
SSN Key Findings, January 2013
"Perceived Scientific Agreement and Support for Government Action on Climate Change in the USA" (with Riley E. Dunlap and Chenyang Xiao). Climatic Change (forthcoming).
Examines the influence that perceived scientific agreement on climate change has on the public’s beliefs about global warming and support for government action to emissions, and finds that misperception of scientific agreement among climate scientists is associated with lower levels of support for government action on climate change.
"The Politicization of Climate Change and Polarization in the American Public’s Views of Global Warming, 2001-2010" (with Riley E. Dunlap). The Sociological Quarterly 52 (2011): 155-194.
Examines political polarization on climate change within the American public between 2001 and 2010, and finds that liberals and Democrats are more likely to report beliefs consistent with the scientific consensus and express personal concern about global warming than are conservatives and Republicans – and that these differences increased over the decade.
"Organized Climate Change Denial" (with Riley E. Dunlap), in The Oxford Handbook of Climate Change and Society, edited by John Dryzek, Richard Norgaard, and David Schlosberg (Oxford University Press, 2011), 144-160.
Draws on a wide range of academic analyses and journalistic investigations to provide an overview of the key actors in the “climate change denial machine” along with their primary strategy of attacking climate science by “manufacturing uncertainty” about its findings in order to undermine calls for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
"Political Orientation Moderates Americans’ Beliefs and Concern about Climate Change" Climatic Change 104 (2011): 243-253.
Offers some theoretical insights to help us better understand why political orientation moderates the relationship between educational attainment and beliefs about climate change: political divisions in the American public increasingly map onto societal divisions between critics and defenders of the industrial capitalist order.
"Cool Dudes: The Denial of Climate Change among Conservative White Males in the United States" (with Riley E. Dunlap). Global Environmental Change 21 (2011): 1163-1172.
Builds on the well-established “white male effect” from risk perception studies and research on the ideological roots of climate change perceptions to examine the views of climate change among conservative white males relative to other segments of the public, and finds these “cool dudes” to be uniquely dismissive of anthropogenic global warming.
"Anti-Reflexivity: The American Conservative Movement’s Success in Undermining Climate Science and Policy" (with Riley E. Dunlap). Theory, Culture, and Society 27 (2010): 100-133.
Analyzes the U.S. conservative movement’s efforts to undermine climate science and policy by mounting an anti-environmental “countermovement,” and outlines the manner in which conservatives (especially during the George W. Bush Administration) employed non-decision-making to achieve its ends while minimizing public backlash.
Media ContributionsIn recent years, McCright’s research has been featured in news articles in numerous major news websites, including MSNBC, ABC News, CBS News, NPR, Huffington Post, The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, Newsday, Washington Post, USA Today, Christian Science Monitor, Miami Herald, The Guardian (UK), Toronto Sun (Canada), Time, Mother Jones, and Forbes as well as in outlets such as The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Nation, Scientific American, The Atlantic, and Conservation Magazine. He also has been interviewed on various radio programs in the Great Lakes region. His recent work on climate change denial and public understanding has been discussed frequently on several notable blogs, such as Andy Revkin’s “Dot Earth” Blog at The New York Times; Joe Romm’s “Climate Progress” Blog at Think Progress; David Roberts’s blog at Grist; and Chris Mooney’s “The Intersection” Blog at Discover Magazine; and at DeSmogBlog.
Aaron M. McCright's research on people having a hard time seeing research related to health risks as legitimate if done with a corporate partner discussed in John Besley, Sarina Gleason, "Public Skeptical of Research if Tied to a Company," MSU Today, May 8, 2017.
Aaron M. McCright's research on the political polarization of climate change discussed in Chris Mooney, "Do Democrats and Republicans Actually Experience the Weather Differently?," The Washington Post, November 24, 2014.
Aaron M. McCright quoted on party identification trumping weather data in Pete Spotts, "Americans Would Rather Adapt to Extreme Weather than Curb Climate Change" Christian Science Monitor, November 24, 2014.
Aaron M. McCright quoted on the little change in Christian attitudes toward the environment over the last 20 years in Kelsey Dallas, "Evangelical Christian Pastors Frame Environmentalism in Religious Terms" Deseret News National , October 18, 2014.
Talks and Briefings
"Climate Change Denial and Public Understanding of Climate Change in the United States," State University of New York, Geneseo, NY, March 6, 2013.
"Politics and Public Understanding of Climate Change," Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK, February 22, 2013.
"Climate Change Denial and Public Understanding of Climate Change," Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, February 8, 2013.
"Beliefs about Climate Science and Concern about Global Warming in the US Public, 2001-2010," National Academy of Sciences, Committee on Human Dimensions of Global Change, Washington, DC, October 22, 2010.
"Climate Change Skepticism in the American Public," Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY, March 20, 2009.
"Climate Change Politics and Public Understanding," Focus the Nation Community Forum, East Lansing, MI, January 31, 2008.
"The Conservative Movement’s Impact on U.S. Climate Change Policy," Stanford University, Stanford, CA, June 3, 2004.