What explains public support for climate policies? A review of empirical and experimental studies

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© 2015 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. The lack of broad public support prevents the implementation of effective climate policies. This article aims to examine why citizens support or reject climate policies. For this purpose, we provide a cross-disciplinary overview of empirical and experimental research on public attitudes and preferences that has emerged in the last few years. The various factors influencing policy support are divided into three general categories: (1) social-psychological factors and climate change perception, such as the positive influences of left-wing political orientation, egalitarian worldviews, environmental and self-transcendent values, climate change knowledge, risk perception, or emotions like interest and hope; (2) the perception of climate policy and its design, which includes, among others, the preference of pull over push measures, the positive role of perceived policy effectiveness, the level of policy costs, as well as the positive effect of perceived policy fairness and the recycling of potential policy revenues; (3) contextual factors, such as the positive influence of social trust, norms and participation, wider economic, political and geographical aspects, or the different effects of specific media events and communications. Finally, we discuss the findings and provide suggestions for future research. Policy relevance Public opinion is a significant determinant of policy change in democratic countries. Policy makers may be reluctant to implement climate policies if they expect public opposition. This article seeks to provide a better understanding of the various factors influencing public responses to climate policy proposals. Most of the studied factors include perceptions about climate change, policy and its attributes, all of which are amenable to intervention. The acquired insights can thus assist in improving policy design and communication with the overarching objective to garner more public support for effective climate policy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)855-876
JournalClimate Policy
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2 Oct 2016


  • climate policy
  • policy acceptance
  • policy support
  • public attitudes
  • public opinion
  • public preferences


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