Arnold Vedlitz

Texas A&M University
Institute for Science, Technology and Public Policy, Bush School of Government and Public Service

Texas A&M University
4350 TAMU
College Station, Texas
USA
77843-4350
avedlitz@tamu.edu |  Visit Personal Website


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My research focus is on the role of scientific and technology information in the framing of policy decisions of the public and decision-makers. My current and future publications will continue to examine and test the creation of information, its movement through the policy process and its impacts on the attitudes and behaviors of the relevant public policy makers and citizens.

Citation:
Liu. X., A. Vedlitz, J.W. Stoutenborough, and S. Robinson. 2015. "Scientists' Views and Positions on Global Warming and Climate Change: A Content Analysis of Congressional Testimonies." Climatic Change 131 (4): 487-503.
Abstract: Among many potential causes for policymakers’ contention over whether there is a largely unified scientific agreement on global warming and climate change (GWCC), one possible factor, according to the information deficit theory, is that the scientists who testified in congressional hearings might be substantially divided in their views and positions associated with GWCC. To clarify this, we perform content analysis of 1350 testimonies from congressional GWCC hearings over a period of 39 years from 1969 to 2007 and use the data derived from this content analysis to provide an overview of scientist witnesses’ stances on GWCC. The key findings include: (1) among the scientists’ testimonies with an expressed view on whether GWCC is real, a vast majority (86 %) indicates that it is happening; (2) among the scientists’ testimonies with an identified stance on whether GWCC is anthropogenic, a great majority of them (78 %) indicates that GWCC is caused, at least to some degree, by human activity; (3) even under Republican controlled congresses, there is still a supermajority (75 %) - among the scientists’ testimonies with an expressed position on GWCC existence or GWCC cause - that believes that GWCC is real and that GWCC is anthropogenic; (4) most scientists’ testimonies (95 %) endorse pro-action policy to combat GWCC; and (5) the percentages of scientists’ views and positions are consistent across different types of scientist testimony groups. Our findings suggest that the scientific information transmitted to Congress is not substantially different from the general agreement in the climate science community.
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10584-015-1390-6
Citation:
Mumpower, J.L., X. Liu, and A. Vedlitz/ 2015. "Predictors of the Perceived Risk of Climate Change and Preferred Resource Levels for Climate Change Management Programs." Journal of Risk Research forthcoming.
Abstract: In a 2013 US national public opinion survey, data were collected from 1321 adult respondents for five psychometric variables – Dread, Scientists’ Level of Understanding, Public’s Level of Understanding, Number Affected, and Likelihood – for six threats (sea-level rise, increased flooding, and four others) associated with climate change. Respondents also rated perceived risk and indicated the resource level that they believed should be invested in management programs for each threat. Responses did not vary significantly across the six threats, so they were combined. The survey collected standard demographic information, as well as measuring climate change knowledge and environmental values (New Ecological Paradigm, NEP). Psychometric variables predicted perceived risk extremely well (R = .890, p < .001); all five psychometric variables were significant predictors. The results were generally consistent with previous research except that Scientists’ Level of Understanding was a positive, rather than negative, predictor of perceived risk. Jointly the demographic variables, knowledge, and environmental values significantly predicted perceived risk (R = .504, p < .001). Consistent with previous research, significant positive predictors were age, Democratic Party Identification, and NEP score; significant negative predictors were male gender and White ethnicity. When demographic variables, knowledge, and environmental values were added to psychometric ones, only the psychometric variables were statistically significant predictors. Perceived risk strongly predicted resource level (r = .772, p < .001). Adding demographic, knowledge, and environmental value variables to perceived risk as predictors of resource level did not appreciably increase overall predictive ability (r = .790, p < .001), although White ethnicity emerged as a significant negative predictor and religiosity, Democratic Party Identification, Liberal Political Ideology, and NEP score were significant positive predictors. The results demonstrate that risk perceptions of climate change and policy preferences among climate change management options are highly predictable as a function of demographic, knowledge, environmental values, and psychometric variables. Among these, psychometric variables were found to be the strongest predictors.
DOI: 10.1080/13669877.2015.1043567
Citation:
Stoutenborough, J.W., A. Vedtliz, and X. Liu. 2015. "The Influences of Specific Risk Perceptions on Public Policy Support: An Examination of Energy Policy." The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 658 (1): 102-120.
Abstract: A great deal of research has been dedicated to understanding the relationship of public references to public policy. Much of this literature, though, does not account for risk perception, an important characteristic that affects individuals’ preferences. In terms of policy, those who perceive high risk in association with a particular issue should be more likely to oppose policies that would increase that risk, and, conversely, support policies that would decrease this risk. In this article, we examine the role of specific risk perceptions related to nuclear, coal, and renewable sources of energy on related policy preferences. Controlling for the influence of knowledge and several specific attitudinal indicators, we find that risk perceptions are strong predictors of energy policy preferences.
DOI: 10.1177/0002716214556472
Citation:
Oxley, Douglas R., Arnold Vedlitz, and Dan B. Wood. 2014. "The Effects of Persuasive Messages on Policy Problem Recognition." Policy Studies Journal 42 (2):252-268.
Abstract: Prior theories of individual behavior in recognizing public problems have centered on the role of policy entrepreneurs; institutional effects; information; and cultural, political, and social pressures. Our extension of these theories suggests that policy problem recognition is an attitudinal evaluation process. If the information is considered valid and the new attitude is negative in valence, then a policy problem is recognized. To test this theory, we use an embedded experiment in a national survey to measure the effect of persuasive messages on the concern for global warming. We find that the negativity of the message and the credibility of the source of the message both affect the level of increase in concern for global warming. Further, the impact of the message from the source is conditional based upon the recipient's ideology. This suggests that policy problem recognition is attitudinal and thus incorporates both analytical and affective components.
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/psj.12058
Citation:
Stoutenborough, James W., and Arnold Vedlitz. 2014. "The Effect of Perceived and Assessed Knowledge of Climate Change on Public Policy Concerns: An Empirical Comparison." Environmental Science & Policy 37 (March):23-33.
Abstract: Knowledge is essential for evaluating risk and mitigating its influence through policy. The Knowledge Deficit Model (KDM) suggests that experts have knowledge that the public does not and that this knowledge deficit makes it difficult for the public to evaluate risk properly. Recent studies of KDM have been unable to find evidence of this expectation. We believe these examinations may have incorrectly measured knowledge. There are two approaches to measuring the public's knowledge on an issue: (1) subjective perceptions of one's knowledge and (2) objective assessment of one's knowledge. Scientific knowledge, defined as one's assessed understanding of an issue, is very different from one's subjective, perceived knowledge. We examine individual risk perceptions of climate change to determine the extent to which measurement errors of knowledge may have affected previous studies of KDM. Our findings suggest that subjective measures of knowledge are poorly capturing scientific knowledge. Our findings also suggest that using scientific measures of knowledge produces results that support KDM.
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.envsci.2013.08.002
Citation:
Liu, Xinsheng, Arnold Vedlitz, and Liu Shi. 2014. "Examining the Determinants of Public Environmental Concern: Evidence from National Public Surveys." Environmental Science & Policy 39 (May):77-94.
Abstract: 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.
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.envsci.2014.02.006
Citation:
Brooks, Jeremy, Douglas R Oxley, Arnold Vedlitz, Sammy Zahran, and Charles Lindsey. 2014. "Abnormal Daily Temperature and Concern about Climate Change across the United States." Review of Policy Research 31 (3):199-217.
Abstract: The relatively low level of concern about climate change among Americans has important implications for climate policy. While many studies have examined individual characteristics associated with climate change attitudes, fewer studies have considered the effects of environmental conditions on such attitudes. Here, we use two national samples of American adults to explore the impact of abnormal daily temperatures on levels of concern about climate change. We test the hypotheses that (1) abnormally warm temperatures, and (2) both abnormally warm and abnormally cool temperatures are associated with higher levels of concern. Using a generalized ordinal logit, we find that the quadratic form of deviation from mean temperature on the date of the survey is significantly associated with higher levels of concern, thus supporting the second hypothesis. We discuss several theoretical frameworks that may explain this result including availability bias, mental models, and implicit stimuli, and the implications for climate policy.
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/ropr.12067
Citation:
Stoutenborough, James W., Shelbi G. Sturgess, and Arnold Vedlitz. 2013. "Knowledge, Risk, and Policy Support: Public Perceptions of Nuclear Power." Energy Policy 62 (November 2013):176-184.
Abstract: Nuclear energy was becoming increasingly popular as an alternative to air polluting fossil fuel technologies through the latter half of the 2000s. The tragic events of March 11, 2011 in Fukushima, Japan appear to have instantly killed any momentum the nuclear industry had gained. While unfortunate, many argue that nuclear power is still a safe alternative and that the Fukushima disaster resulted from insufficient safety regulations in Japan, a problem that does not exist in the United States. This project examines U.S. public support for nuclear energy one year after the Fukushima tragedy, seeking to understand the influence of knowledge and risk perceptions on policy support. We evaluate public support for nuclear energy policy from several perspectives using risk and attitudinal measurements that are more specific than often found in the literature to obtain a greater understanding of the connection between policy and risk.
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.enpol.2013.06.098
Citation:
Hinich, Melvin, Xinsheng Liu, Arnold Vedlitz, and Charles Lindsey. 2013. "Beyond the Left–Right Cleavage: Exploring American Political Choice Space." Journal of Theoretical Politics 25 (1):75-104.
Abstract: Following spatial choice theory and MAP methodology, we employ the data drawn from recent nationwide public opinion surveys to probe the latent political choice space in American political competition. Our analyses demonstrate that, in addition to the traditional left–right ideology continuum, there is a second distinct dimension in American political choice space. More importantly, the results from our regression analyses suggest that the second dimension seems to be driven by a cleavage among different reform prospects, ranging from low-politics reformism, to politics-as-usual approach, to high-politics style of change.
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0951629812453215
Citation:
Mumpower, Jeryl L, Liu Shi, James W Stoutenborough, and Arnold Vedlitz. 2013. "Psychometric and Demographic Predictors of the Perceived Risk of Terrorist Threats and the Willingness to Pay for Terrorism Risk Management Programs." Risk Analysis 33 (10):1802-1811.
Abstract: A 2009 national telephone survey of 924 U.S. adults assessed perceptions of terrorism and homeland security issues. Respondents rated severity of effects, level of understanding, number affected, and likelihood of four terrorist threats: poisoned water supply; explosion of a small nuclear device in a major U.S. city; an airplane attack similar to 9/11; and explosion of a bomb in a building, train, subway, or highway. Respondents rated perceived risk and willingness to pay (WTP) for dealing with each threat. Demographic, attitudinal, and party affiliation data were collected. Respondents rated bomb as highest in perceived risk but gave the highest WTP ratings to nuclear device. For both perceived risk and WTP, psychometric variables were far stronger predictors than were demographic ones. OLS regression analyses using both types of variables to predict perceived risk found only two significant demographic predictors for any threat—Democrat (a negative predictor for bomb) and white male (a significant positive predictor for airline attack). In contrast, among psychometric variables, severity, number affected, and likelihood were predictors of all four threats and level of understanding was a predictor for one. For WTP, education was a negative predictor for three threats; no other demographic variables were significant predictors for any threat. Among psychometric variables, perceived risk and number affected were positive predictors of WTP for all four threats; severity and likelihood were predictors for three; level of understanding was a significant predictor for two.
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/risa.12033
Citation:
Robinson, Scott E., Xinsheng Liu, and Arnold Vedlitz. 2011. "Public Support for the Department of Homeland Security." Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management 8 (1):1-16.
Abstract: The creation of the Department of Homeland Security was a landmark in the history of the U.S. federal government. With the largest reorganization of the federal executive branch in decades, policymakers sought to group agencies with missions related to homeland security under one cabinet level official. It is natural to ask whether this reorganization has succeeded. One measure of that success would be public confidence in the competency of the department. In this paper, we report the results of a national poll which asked a variety of questions related to individuals’ perceptions of the Department of Homeland Security. The results illustrate that the level of confidence in the competency of the Department of Homeland Security is generally high—though there are divisions among people’s evaluations based on party, religiosity, attention to terrorism, and education level.
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2202/1547-7355.1764
Citation:
Robinson, Scott E., Xinsheng Liu, James W. Stoutenborough, and Arnold Vedlitz. 2013. "Explaining Popular Trust in the Department of Homeland Security." Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory 23 (3):713-733.
Abstract: Research reveals that levels of reported trust in government are at a relatively low level—among the lowest in the period studied. At the same time, reported approval for specific administrative agencies varies widely, with some agencies receiving little support and others a great deal. This raises an important question: what factors drive trust in specific agencies? This article investigates the question in relation to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). We find that reported assessments of DHS are driven by political attitudes, policy salience, religiosity, and demographic characteristics, even when controlling for trust in government in general.
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jopart/mus025
Citation:
Brody, Samuel, Himanshu Grover, and Arnold Vedlitz. 2012. "Examining the Willingness of Americans to Alter Behaviour to Mitigate Climate Change." Climate Policy 12 (1):1-22.
Abstract: Despite the increasing interest in climate change policy in the US, little systematic research has been conducted on the willingness of individuals to change their behaviour to mitigate the problem. Understanding behavioural change is critical if federal and local governments intend to implement programmes requiring actions to mitigate and adapt to climate change. This understudied aspect of climate change policy is addressed by quantitatively examining the degree to which residents living in the US are willing to alter their behaviour to mitigate climate change impacts, and by identifying the major factors contributing to this willingness. Based on a national survey, the reported willingness of individuals to alter behaviours is explained, using the components of risk, individual stress, capacity and ecological values. The findings indicate that specific personal traits and contextual characteristics trigger a significantly greater willingness to change longstanding behavioural patterns. These insights into the factors motivating behavioural change can provide guidance to decision makers at both federal and local levels on how best to implement climate change policies.
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14693062.2011.579261
Citation:
Li, Quan, Matthew Fuhrmann, Bryan R. Early, and Arnold Vedlitz. 2012. "Preferences, Knowledge, and Citizen Probability Assessments of the Terrorism Risk of Nuclear Power." Review of Policy Research 29 (2):207-227.
Abstract: How does the American public assess risk when it comes to national security issues? This paper addresses this question by analyzing variation in citizen probability assessments of the terrorism risk of nuclear power plants. Drawing on the literature on how motivated reasoning, selective information processing, and domain-specific knowledge influence public opinion, we argue that heterogeneous issue preferences and knowledge of nuclear energy and homeland security have important explanatory power. Using original data from a unique 2009 national survey in the United States, we show that Americans are divided in their probability assessments of the terrorism risk of nuclear power plants. Consistent with our theoretical expectations, individuals who support using nuclear power to meet rising energy demands, who are generally less concerned with terrorism, or who are more knowledgeable about terrorism and nuclear security tend to provide lower assessments of the likelihood that nuclear power plants increase terrorist attacks, and vice versa. The findings have implications for the literature on public opinion, risk assessment, energy policy and planning, and homeland security.
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1541-1338.2011.00552.x
Citation:
Liu, Xinsheng, Eric Lindquist, and Arnold Vedlitz. 2011. "Explaining Media and Congressional Attention to Global Climate Change, 1969-2005: An Empirical Test of Agenda-Setting Theory." Political Research Quarterly 64 (2):405-419.
Abstract: Agenda theories suggest that problem indicator, focusing event, and information feedback enhance issue attention. However, few studies have systematically tested this. This study, using time series data and vector autoregression (VAR), examines how climate problem indicator, high-profile international event, and climate science feedback influence media and congressional attention to global warming and climate change. The findings confirm that these attention-grabbing factors indeed generally promote issue salience, but these factors may work differently across agenda venues. Attention inertia, interagenda interaction, and partisan advantage on agenda setting are also included and analyzed in the VAR modeling. Implications of the study and recommendations for future research are discussed in conclusion.
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1065912909346744
Citation:
Rosenberg, Stacy, Arnold Vedlitz, Deborah Cowman, and Sammy Zahran. 2010. "Climate Change: A Profile of U.S. Climate Scientists' Perspectives." Climatic Change 101 (3-4):311-329.
Abstract: Climate scientists have played a significant role in investigating global climate change. In the USA, a debate has swirled about whether a consensus on climate change exists among reputable scientists and this has entered the policy process. In order to better understand the views of US climate scientists, we conducted an empirical survey of US climate scientists (N = 468) in 2005, and compared the results with the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) physical science report and policy summaries. Our results reveal that survey respondents generally agree about the nature, causes, and consequences of climate change, and are in agreement with IPCC findings. We also found that there is strong support for a variety of policy initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10584-009-9709-9
Citation:
Liu, X., E. Lindquist, A. Vedlitz, and K. Vincent. 2010. "Understanding Local Policy Making: Policy Elites' Perceptions of Local Agenda Setting and Alternative Policy Selection." Policy Studies Journal 38 (1): 69-91.
Abstract: Despite the increasing interest in policy agenda research in recent years, very few studies have focused their attention on the relevant processes at the local level. Drawing on agenda setting research, particularly Kingdon's multiple-streams framework, this study examines the key forces and factors, as well as their relative importance, in local agenda setting, problem identification and alternative policy selection. Data are collected from 271 in-depth interviews with local policy stakeholders in three U.S. Gulf Coast areas. Interview materials are coded using a protocol focused on capturing stakeholders' perceptions of the key elements and forces in local policy dynamics. Our interview data indicate that (1) governmental actors and various interest groups have relatively more influence in shaping local agendas than the general public, experts and election-related actors, while the mass media are found to have little agenda setting power in local policy processes; (2) budgetary consideration and various forms of feedback to local government are more important than objective problem indicators and focusing events in setting local policy priorities; (3) policy alternatives that are deemed compatible with existing policies and regulations are more likely to be selected than those relying on other criteria such as technical feasibility, value acceptability and future constraints; and (4) consensus- and coalition-building is perceived as the most important political factor in local policy processes. Limitations of our study and recommendations for future research are discussed in the concluding section.

Substantive Focus:
Environmental Policy PRIMARY
Science and Technology Policy SECONDARY

Theoretical Focus:
Policy Process Theory SECONDARY
Public Opinion PRIMARY

Keywords

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY POLICY PUBLIC POLICY INTER-GROUP CONFLICT AMERICAN POLITICAL BEHAVIOR URBAN POLITICS ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY ENERGY-FOOD-WATER NEXUS POLICY