Examining the determinants of public environmental concern: Evidence from national public surveys Academic Article uri icon


  • Early research showed that citizens' environmental concern in the United States was linked to three individual-level factors: socio-demographic variables, political orientations, and personal beliefs or worldviews about human-nature relations. Given many changes in the American society over the last several decades, one important, yet unanswered question is whether these factors still drive public environmental concern in the United States today, and if so, to what extent. This study, drawing from extant theoretical and empirical studies, aims to reinvestigate the determinants of citizens' environmental concern by employing three national public surveys conducted in 2004, 2007, and 2013. Our data analyses confirm and expand the findings of previous research on the significance and importance of political ideology, fundamental beliefs about human-nature relations, and certain socioeconomic factors such as gender and race in explaining citizens' environmental concern. More specifically, political liberals, people with higher New Ecological Paradigm values, females, and Non-Whites tend to be more concerned about environmental problems than their counterparts are. Our data analyses also reveal some interesting findings when compared to many previous studies: first, our data indicate a positive relationship between age and environmental concern, suggesting that older people in the United States are more concerned about the environment than younger adults; second, unlike most past research showing a positive Education-Environmental Concern relationship, our study suggests that education level seems to have little effect in explaining citizens' environmental concern measured in this study. Key implications for environmental policymaking and recommendations for future research are discussed in the conclusion. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.

published proceedings

  • Environmental Science & Policy

author list (cited authors)

  • Liu, X., Vedlitz, A., & Shi, L.

citation count

  • 113

complete list of authors

  • Liu, Xinsheng||Vedlitz, Arnold||Shi, Liu

publication date

  • May 2014