The Great Divide: Political Candidate and Voter Polarisation over Global Warming in Australia



Attitude polarization between conservative and progressive politicians over global warming has an important influence upon public acceptance of action on climate change. Political party identification theorists claim that political elites provide cues that guide party supporters on complex political issues. In Australia, as in the USA, the UK and elsewhere, public attitudes on climate change are deeply divided on the basis of party identification and political ideology. Multivariate analyses of Australian candidate and voter survey data show that coalition candidates and their supporters are far less likely than their Labor or Greens counterparts to believe global warming will pose a serious threat to their way of life. Attitudes toward global warming are also more polarized according to party allegiance among candidates than among voters. Controlling for social background and political ideology, Coalition identifiers are less concerned about the dangers of climate change, far less supportive of the carbon tax and less likely to support renewable energy options than Greens or Labor identifiers are, but much more supportive of nuclear power as an alternative energy source.