In a study by Mathew Nisbet and Teresa Myers published by the Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Association for Public Opinion Research, the two sought to compile a confirmed and definitive summary of public opinion on global warming. In order to accomplish this task, the two sifted trough hundreds of polling questions chosen from over 70 news organization, academic and nonpartisan public opinion surveys that have been distributed over the past 20 years. The study found that as a result of a very little amount of media and news attention, when surveyed in 1986, a mere 39% of the public responded that they “heard or read anything about the greenhouse effect.” However, after a summer with record breaking heat strokes and thus increasing amounts of media attention in the 1990s, the percentage of the public who had heard or read anything about global warming was approximately 80% and passed 90% in 2006. The results of this survey convey a high correlation between public awareness and media coverage. When the public is more directly concerned with and experiencing the detrimental ramifications of a phenomenon, they are more likely to understand and become aware of it. Unfortunately, Ocean Acidification, although posing dire threats to our marine and coastal ecosystems, barely receives media attention. The science behind climate change alone is very complex and therefore the public generally finds it difficult to comprehend and to relate to. However, ocean acidification, just one subtopic of global warming, is an even more arduous concept to grasp, especially without a background in science. As a result, public awareness regarding the understanding and consequences of ocean acidification remains at a very low level. However, if paid more attention to and given more media coverage, the study suggests that public awareness on ocean acidification will drastically increase. If more people are concerned with and aware of the consequences of ocean acidification, it is much more likely that they will join movements towards mitigating its harmful and potentially catastrophic effects.
Nisbet, M. C. and T. Myers. 2007. Twenty years of public opinion about global warming. Public Opinion Quarterly. 71: 444-470.