Aaron M. McCright is Associate Professor of Sociology in Lyman Briggs College, the Department of Sociology, and the Environmental Science and Policy Program at Michigan State University. His scholarly research agenda aims to enhance our sociological understanding of how scientific and technological developments, top-down and bottom-up political processes, and enduring social structures influence societal capacity for recognizing and dealing with environmental impacts and technological risks. Employing a range of methods and analytical techniques, McCright explains the structure, strategy, tactics, and impacts of the US-based climate change denial countermovement; analyzes theoretically relevant patterns and trends in citizens’ climate change views; develops and tests theoretical arguments about selected predictors of environmental decision-making more generally; and investigates key predictors of public views of science and scientists. McCright has published two books, has authored 10 chapters in edited volumes, and has written three brief reports. He also has published over 50 peer-reviewed articles in such scholarly journals as Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences; Nature Climate Change; Global Environmental Change; Climatic Change; Public Opinion Quarterly; Social Problems; Social Science Quarterly; Theory, Culture, and Society; The Sociological Quarterly; Journal of Risk Research; Organization and Environment; Environment and Behavior; Population and Environment; and Environmental Politics. McCright was named a 2007 Kavli Frontiers Fellow in the National Academy of Sciences, he served as a 2008-2009 Lilly Teaching Fellow at MSU, and he received the 2009 Teacher-Scholar Award and the 2009 Curricular Service-Learning and Civic Engagement Award at MSU. In 2014, he received the Larry T. Reynolds Award for Outstanding Teaching of Sociology from the Michigan Sociological Association.
Industry Expertise (2)
Areas of Expertise (4)
2007 Kavli Frontiers Fellow (professional)
Given by the National Academy of Sciences
2009 Teacher-Scholar Award (professional)
An award given by MSU
The 2009 Curricular Service-Learning and Civic Engagement Award (professional)
An award given by MSU
Larry T. Reynolds Award for Outstanding Teaching of Sociology (professional)
An award given by the Michigan Sociological Association
Washington State University: Ph.D., Sociology
Washington State University: M.A., Sociology
Putting science into practice: Why we need to play our part
Union of Concerned Scientists
In his op-ed, Young claimed that Al Gore is responsible for “politicizing” the science of climate change in the United States through his production of An Inconvenient Truth in 2006. However, sociologists Aaron McCright and Riley Dunlap document that the politicization of climate change in the U.S. happened much earlier than 2006 and that it was not because of well-intentioned documentaries; rather, it was due to the strategic work of the George W. Bush administration on behalf of private interests...
How Is Climate Change Denial Still a Thing?
“We’re really in uncharted territory,” says Aaron McCright, a sociologist at Michigan State University, tells Inverse. “I can’t think of any time in the last couple hundred years where there has been a society in which a large group of people are somewhat impervious to empirical reality.”
You need to get inside the mind of a climate change denier if you want to change it
Trump and Ebell are not outliers. According to a study by sociologists Aaron M. McCright and Riley Dunlap, based on an analysis of Gallup surveys of public opinion between 2000 and 2010, 32% of adults in America deny that there is a scientific consensus on climate change. There’s a clear political divide on the issue in the US: According to a 2016 survey by Pew Research, only 15% of conservative Republican Americans agreed with the statement “the Earth is warming mostly due to human activity,”compared with 79% of liberal Democrats...
MSU Study: Climate change denial messaging works
Michigan Radio online
MSU associate professor and sociologist Aaron McCright led the study of 1600 US adults.
McCright says messages that frame climate change as a public health or national security threat, or even through a “positive” frame like economic opportunity or religious obligation, seem to fall flat.
Climate-change foes winning public opinion war
MSU Today online
“This is the first experiment of its kind to examine the influence of the denial messages on American adults,” said Aaron M. McCright, a sociologist and lead investigator on the study. “Until now, most people just assumed climate change deniers were having an influence on public opinion. Our experiment confirms this.”
Journal Articles (5)
We examine political polarization over climate change within the American public by analyzing data from 10 nationally representative Gallup Polls between 2001 and 2010. We find 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.
We examine whether conservative white males are more likely than are other adults in the US general public to endorse climate change denial. We draw theoretical and analytical guidance from the identity-protective cognition thesis explaining the white male effect and from recent political psychology scholarship documenting the heightened system-justification tendencies of political conservatives.
In this article, we argue that a major reason the United States failed to ratify the Kyoto Protocol to ameliorate global warming is the opposition of the American conservative movement, a key segment of the anti-environmental counter-movement. We examine how the conservative movement mobilized between 1990 and 1997 to construct the" non-problematicity" of global warming.
The sociological literature on global environmental change emphasizes the processes by which the problem of global warming is socially constructed. However, the opposing efforts to construct the “non-problematicity” of global warming advanced by the conservative movement are largely ignored. Utilizing recent work on framing processes in the social movements literature and claims-making from the social problems literature, this paper analyzes the counter-claims promoted by the conservative movement between 1990 and 1997 as it mobilized to challenge the legitimacy of global warming as a social problem. A thematic content analysis of publications circulated on the web sites of prominent conservative think tanks reveals three major counter-claims. First, the movement criticized the evidentiary basis of global warming as weak, if not entirely wrong. Second, the movement argued that global warming will have substantial benefits if it occurs. Third, the movement warned that proposed action to ameliorate global warming would do more harm than good. In short, the conservative movement asserted that, while the science of global warming appears to be growing more and more uncertain, the harmful effects of global warming policy are becoming increasingly certain. In order to better understand the controversy over global warming, future research should pay attention to the influence of the conservative movement by identifying the crucial roles of conservative foundations, conservative think tanks, and sympathetic “skeptic” scientists in undermining the growing scientific consensus over the reality of global warming.