Getting bipartisan support for sea level rise adaptation policies

Getting bipartisan support for sea level rise adaptation policies
November 2020
Bruce E. Cain
Iris Hui
Elisabeth R. Gerber
Ocean & Coastal Management


Climate change is one of the most polarized political issues facing the American electorate. Even in places like California, where the vast majority of the population believes that some action should be taken to protect people and property from the effects of climate change, Democrats and Republicans disagree on precisely what should be protected, the specific adaptive measures that should be taken, and who should pay. As warnings of catastrophic damage become louder, however, the urgency to find bipartisan solutions will increase. Using a novel survey of California adults, our research assesses the current level of disagreement over adaptive measures to sea level rise between Democrats and Republicans, and asks whether there are conditions under which partisans can come to closer agreement on them. Specifically, we consider the role of personal experiences in lessening the degree of polarization on how partisans think about and prioritize climate adaptation. We find that experiencing extreme events does lessen the partisan gap in many instances, offering hope that communities can find bipartisan solutions to climate change threats.