Green Colored Lenses: Worldviews and Motivated Reasoning in the Case of Local Water Scarcity Academic Article uri icon


  • Studies linking local issue severity to public opinion often treat the effect as homogeneous, suggesting a straightforward relationship between issue exposure and policy opinions. It is more likely that individuals perceive local issues in conditional ways. We advance a theory of motivated reasoning whereby worldviews act as a lens through which individuals interpret the world around them. When the observed environment conforms to individuals prior beliefs, they will be even more likely to perceive risk and call for policy action. When the information presented to them is incongruent with their worldview, increasing issue severity will have a minimal effect. We test our theory by combining an indicator of water scarcity with data from two nationally representative, probability-based panel surveys about water issues in the United States. Analyzing interactive models predicting risk perception and policy preferences, we find that water scarcity drives individuals with opposing environmental worldviews even further apart.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 3.6

author list (cited authors)

  • Switzer, D., & Vedlitz, A.

citation count

  • 6

complete list of authors

  • Switzer, David||Vedlitz, Arnold

publication date

  • September 2017