Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research

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Vol. 40, No. 4, 2008

pp. 671-678

Who Cares about Polar Regions? Results from a Survey of U.S. Public Opinion

Lawrence C. Hamilton

What do members of the general public know about polar regions, and how much do they care? Who knows or cares? This paper explores data from the General Social Survey (GSS), which in 2006 questioned a representative sample of more than 1800 U.S. adults about their knowledge and opinions concerning polar regions. The polar survey items were modeled on long-running GSS assessments of general science knowledge and opinions, recently summarized in the U.S. National Science Board’s report Science and Engineering Indicators 2008. Polar knowledge proves to be limited but certainly not absent among survey respondents. Polar knowledge, general science knowledge, and education—together with individual background characteristics (age, sex, income)—predict policy-relevant opinions. Political orientation filters the impacts of education, and also shows consistent, significant effects across all the polar opinion questions. These 2006 GSS polar results will provide a baseline for comparison when the questions are repeated on a 2010 survey, after the International Polar Year concludes.