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Actual Experience, Partisan Distortion and Recall of Wildfire Events

Actual Experience, Partisan Distortion and Recall of Wildfire Events
September 2020
Iris Hui
Angela Zhao
Bruce E. Cain
Anne Maureen Driscoll
Publication Documents


We provide an individual-level account of how people recall wildfire experiences and how it affects their policy views. We contend that recall of actual climatic events consists of two components: fact and partisan distortion. When asked about their experience with wildfire, Republicans are less likely than Democrats to recall experiencing smoke and wildfires. The difference is partly attributable to partisan distortion that is rooted in differential beliefs about global climate change. Proximity to wildfires and exposure to dense wildfire smoke diminish partisan distortions in recalling personal experiences with wildfires. Proximity to wildfires also increases Republican support for wildfire adaptive policies that involve public funding, a core issue that typically divides Democrats and Republicans. As global climate change induces more frequent and intense climatic events, the frequency of objectively personal experiences with extreme weather related events like wildfires may help to reduce partisan gaps over climate policy.