Aaron M. McCright

Professor of Sociology, Michigan State University
Areas of Expertise:
  • Media & Public Opinion
  • Social Movements
  • Climate Change
  • Environment

About Aaron

McCright has investigated the political dynamics of climate change since the mid-1990s. His current work analyzes the political dynamics and public understanding of climate science and policy in the United States, focusing primarily on organized climate change denial and political polarization on climate change in the U.S. general public. For this work, he was named a 2007 Kavli Frontiers Fellow in the National Academy of Sciences. He is a Lead Author of a chapter on climate change skepticism and denial for the American Sociological Association’s Task Force on Sociology and Global Climate Change.


The Polarization of U.S. Public Opinion on Climate Change

  • Riley E. Dunlap

The Climate Change Denial Campaign

  • Riley E. Dunlap



"Anti-Reflexivity: The American Conservative Movement’s Success in Undermining Climate Science and Policy" (with Riley E. Dunlap). Theory, Culture, and Society 27 (2010): 100-133.
Analyzes the U.S. conservative movement’s efforts to undermine climate science and policy by mounting an anti-environmental “countermovement,” and outlines the manner in which conservatives (especially during the George W. Bush Administration) employed non-decision-making to achieve its ends while minimizing public backlash.
"Organized Climate Change Denial" (with Riley E. Dunlap), in The Oxford Handbook of Climate Change and Society, edited by John Dryzek, Richard Norgaard, and David Schlosberg (Oxford University Press, 2011), 144-160.
Draws on a wide range of academic analyses and journalistic investigations to provide an overview of the key actors in the “climate change denial machine” along with their primary strategy of attacking climate science by “manufacturing uncertainty” about its findings in order to undermine calls for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
"Political Orientation Moderates Americans’ Beliefs and Concern about Climate Change" Climatic Change 104 (2011): 243-253.
Offers some theoretical insights to help us better understand why political orientation moderates the relationship between educational attainment and beliefs about climate change: political divisions in the American public increasingly map onto societal divisions between critics and defenders of the industrial capitalist order.
"The Politicization of Climate Change and Polarization in the American Public’s Views of Global Warming, 2001-2010" (with Riley E. Dunlap). The Sociological Quarterly 52 (2011): 155-194.
Examines political polarization on climate change within the American public between 2001 and 2010, and finds that liberals and Democrats are more likely to report beliefs consistent with the scientific consensus and express personal concern about global warming than are conservatives and Republicans – and that these differences increased over the decade.
"Cool Dudes: The Denial of Climate Change among Conservative White Males in the United States" (with Riley E. Dunlap). Global Environmental Change 21 (2011): 1163-1172.
Builds on the well-established “white male effect” from risk perception studies and research on the ideological roots of climate change perceptions to examine the views of climate change among conservative white males relative to other segments of the public, and finds these “cool dudes” to be uniquely dismissive of anthropogenic global warming.
"Perceived Scientific Agreement and Support for Government Action on Climate Change in the USA" (with Riley E. Dunlap and Chenyang Xiao). Climatic Change (forthcoming).
Examines the influence that perceived scientific agreement on climate change has on the public’s beliefs about global warming and support for government action to emissions, and finds that misperception of scientific agreement among climate scientists is associated with lower levels of support for government action on climate change.

In the News

Aaron M. McCright quoted , "Can Open and Honest Scientists Win Public Trust?" Laboratory Equipment, October 26, 2017.
Aaron M. McCright's research on people having a hard time seeing research related to health risks as legitimate if done with a corporate partner discussed in John Besley, Sarina Gleason. Aaron M. McCright, "Public Skeptical of Research if Tied to a Company," MSU Today, May 8, 2017.
"People Don’t Trust Scientific Research When Companies are Involved," Aaron M. McCright, The Conversation, May 7, 2017.
Aaron M. McCright quoted on people being impervious to empirical reality in Jacqueline Ronson, "How is Climate Change Denial Still a Thing?" Inverse Science, December 29, 2016.
Aaron M. McCright quoted on partisanship and climate change in Nathan Collins, "Climate Change is becoming a More Polarizing Topic" Pacific Standard, September 7, 2016.
Aaron M. McCright quoted on politicizing climate change in Chelsea Harvey, "Science Confirms It: Denial of Climate Change is All About the Politics" The Washington Post, February 23, 2016.
Aaron M. McCright quoted on the campaign to discredit climate science in Heather Smith, "The Right-Wing Climate-Denial Machine is Churning Faster than Ever" Grist, January 25, 2016.
Aaron M. McCright quoted on the climate change denial movement in Graham Readfearn, "Era of Climate Science Denial is Not Over, Study Finds" The Guardian, January 7, 2016.
Aaron M. McCright's research on climate change messaging discussed in Sarah Cwiek. Aaron M. McCright, "Climate Change Denial Messaging Works," Michigan Public Radio, January 2, 2016.
Aaron M. McCright quoted on climate change denial in Chris Mooney, "This is Why Sowing Doubt about Climate Change is Such an Effective Strategy" The Washington Post, December 2, 2015.
Aaron M. McCright quoted on conservative views on climate changes in Matthew Hilburn, "Climate Change Fight Sparks Renewed Debate in U.S." Voice of America, August 22, 2015.
Aaron M. McCright quoted on the little change in Christian attitudes toward the environment over the last 20 years in Kelsey Dallas, "Evangelical Christian Pastors Frame Environmentalism in Religious Terms" Deseret News National , October 18, 2014.
Aaron M. McCright quoted on people's perception of climate change in Doyle Rice, "Poll: 83% of Americans Say Climate is Changing" USA Today, December 2, 2014.
Aaron M. McCright quoted on party identification trumping weather data in Pete Spotts, "Americans Would Rather Adapt to Extreme Weather than Curb Climate Change" Christian Science Monitor, November 24, 2014.
Aaron M. McCright quoted on perceiving weather through partisanship in Geoffrey Mohan, "Neither Rain nor Snow nor Heat Sways Views on Climate Science" Los Angeles Times, November 24, 2014.
Aaron M. McCright quoted on the political polarization of climate change in Tim McDonnell, "Even Global Warming Can't Convince Republicans that Global Warming Exists" Mother Jones, November 24, 2014.
Aaron M. McCright's research on the political polarization of climate change discussed in Chris Mooney. Aaron M. McCright, "Do Democrats and Republicans Actually Experience the Weather Differently?," The Washington Post, November 24, 2014.