Danny Ebanks
Why don’t Americans trust university researchers and why it matters for climate change

Authors: R. Michael Alvarez, Ramit Debnath, Daniel Ebanks
Paper: Under Review


Scientists have developed a strong consensus that Earth’s climate is changing and that human activities play an important role in these changes. However, current literature shows that in the United States, there is significant partisan polarization on climate change and its causes, leading to climate denialism. In this paper, we shed light on the social determinants of climate action. Using a May 2022 nationally representative survey of American registered voters (n = 2,096) we examine the multivariate correlates of trust in university research and opinions about climate change. Our results confirm that segments of the American electorate do not believe climate change is a problem for the United States and that climate change is not the consequence of human activities. But we also show that part of the problem regarding climate denialism is a lack of trust in university research. We argue for a comprehensive four-stage research strategy based on the empirical results. First, more research must be done to understand who trusts or distrusts university research on climate change and who is persuadable. Second, more research is needed on climate communication framing and messaging. Third, additional research on appropriate messaging is necessary. Finally, we need to develop a culture of trust in climate research and how it is communicated across all levels of education.

Written by

Danny Ebanks

Hi, my name is Danny! I am a Postdoctoral Fellow for IQSS at Harvard after having recently earned my PhD at Caltech in Quantitative Social Sciences! With a research passion for political methodology and American politics, I strive to develop and implement statistical methods, to understand the latest in machine learning and AI, and innovate in these areas in ways small and large to better understand our political world. I am always eager to chat about research and statistics, so feel free to reach out. Outside of research, I'm lifelong runner who hails from New York.