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Poles apart: political divisions over climate change among younger Australians

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-20, 16:10 authored by Bruce TranterBruce Tranter, Skribis, Z, Smith, J
Political polarisation over anthropogenic climate change (ACC) is an important barrier to climate action in countries such as Australia and the USA. Given the rising concerns expressed by younger people globally over the existential threat posed by global warming, are political divisions over climate change lessening among young people? Are young Australians more knowledgeable about climate change than their elders, and to what extent does knowledge influence their climate attitudes? We explore these questions with recent survey data from a cohort of young Australians (aged 26) living in Queensland and national data from the 2018 Australian Survey of Social Attitudes. We find that younger Australians are not more knowledgeable about climate change than older Australians. However, knowledge of climate change is associated with greater acceptance of ACC among younger Australians. Social and political factors are also important. Young men score higher on climate knowledge than young women, but men are less likely than women to accept that climate change has human causes. Those with vocational education score lower than others on climate knowledge and are also less likely to believe in ACC. While younger Australians are likelier to accept ACC than older Australians, political party allegiance remains the strongest influence upon the attitudes of young people, with Liberal and National Party identifiers far less likely than others to accept ACC, even after controlling for social background and climate knowledge. This research suggests that politics remains the greatest barrier to real action on climate change, even among younger Australians.


Publication title

Journal of Applied Youth Studies






School of Social Sciences


Springer Singapore

Place of publication


Rights statement

Copyright Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2020

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Social impacts of climate change and variability

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