Think Globally, Act Locally, Panic Internally: Climate Anxiety’s Impact on Political Participation

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Name: Emily Hasecke
Majors: Psychology, Political Science
Advisors: Susan Clayton, Matthew Krain

This study explored how climate anxiety is related to political participation. Prior research suggested that climate anxiety could motivate or demotivate participation, so there was not a firm consensus on its relationship. Current theories of political participation do not often account for emotions, and this study aimed to critique that pattern. Applying psychological models of performance, like the Yerkes-Dodson Law and Cue Utilization Theory, it was hypothesized that high levels of climate anxiety would negatively correlate with political participation. However, results from collected survey data indicated the opposite effect, finding that higher climate anxiety levels correlated with increased political participation. This study also explored how political self-efficacy dimensions factored into this relationship, specifically examining internal, external, and governmental political self-efficacy. Governmental political self-efficacy was found to moderate and partially mediate the relationship between climate anxiety and political participation, meaning that it affects the strength of the relationship and partially explains its existence. These results have implications for understanding what kinds of individuals are involved in climate politics and for understanding how specific dimensions of political self-efficacy have differing effects on participation habits. Additionally, I conclude by cautioning against inducing anxiety in an effort to see increased participation in climate politics, but rather I suggest that individuals who experience anxiety are already key drivers of climate politics.

Keywords: climate anxiety, political participation, governmental political self-efficacy, climate change, Yerkes-Dodson Law, Cue Utilization Theory

Dr. Melissa Schultz Sustainability and the Environment Award

Posted in Comments Enabled, Independent Study, Symposium 2023 on April 13, 2023.

One response to “Think Globally, Act Locally, Panic Internally: Climate Anxiety’s Impact on Political Participation”

  1. Bryan Karazsia says:

    Dear Emily – Thanks for sharing your work with our community! Enjoy symposium day!

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