‘Global warming’  vs ‘climate change’

The way an environmental issue is named in a survey may affect the responses given. When it comes to global warming versus climate change, research finds that, among Republicans, the former term invites less certainty in the existence of the phenomenon. Conversely, Democrats’ existence beliefs are not influenced by the label used. These findings by Schuldt, Roh, and Schwarz (2015) replicate results of an earlier study by Schuldt, Konrath, and Schwarz (2011), suggesting that the extent of the partisan divide on the issue might partly depend on the design of the questionnaire, namely, on question wording.


In the experiment conducted by Schuldt, Roh, and Schwarz (2015) over 2,000 self-identified Republicans and Democrats were randomly assigned to answer questions about either global warming or climate change (the questions were identical in every respect except for the term used). In addition to the effect on personal existence beliefs, labels also influenced perceptions of the degree and direction of scientific consensus on the issue. When answering questions worded in terms of global warming, both Republicans and Democrats were more likely to say that most scientists believe the phenomenon is not occurring or are unsure about whether it is occurring or not.


Schuldt, J. P., Roh, S., & Schwarz, N. (2015). Questionnaire design effects in climate change surveys: Implications for the partisan divide. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 658(1), 67–85. – Read the full article

Schuldt, J. P., Konrath, S. H., & Schwarz, N. (2011). “Global warming” or “climate change”? Whether the planet is warming depends on question wording. Public Opinion Quarterly, nfq073. – Read the full article


For more about climate change related labels see the following articles:

Leiserowitz, A., Feinberg, G., Rosenthal, S., Smith, N., Anderson, A., Roser-Renouf, C., & Maibach, E. (2014). What’s in a name? Global warming vs. climate change. Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, New Haven: CT.

Schuldt, J. P., & Roh, S. (2014). Media frames and cognitive accessibility: What do “global warming” and “climate change” evoke in partisan minds? Environmental Communication, 8(4), 529–548. [PDF]

Schuldt, J. P., & Roh, S. (2014). Of accessibility and applicability: How heat-related cues affect belief in “global warming” versus “climate change.” Social Cognition, 32(3), 217–238. [PDF]

Villar, A., & Krosnick, J. A. (2011). Global warming vs. climate change, taxes vs. prices: Does word choice matter? Climatic Change, 105(1-2), 1–12.


Read more about the effect of labels: ‘Fracking’ vs. ‘Hydraulic fracturing’