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Putting Social Science to Work in Climate Change Interpretation

Category: On-Demand Programs
Title slide for Putting Social Science to Work in Climate Change Interpretation

This is a recorded session from the 2023 AAM Annual Meeting & MuseumExpo. Public engagement efforts on climate change must start with the fundamental recognition that people have different psychological, cultural, and political reasons for acting—or not acting—to reduce carbon pollution. In this session, hear how social research data can provide insights into visitors’ beliefs and attitudes, and how to put this information to work in developing interpretive programs and exhibitions.


Sarah Sutton:

We have a lot to share with you, so we’re going to get started immediately. Doing this climate work requires all of us to be curious, creative, and courageous. We’re in uncharted territories where discoveries, reactions, and progress are all in close. This presentation shares the good work of people who are being courageous, and we hope it will help you navigate more confidently and effectively as you do this work. Now, there are two things that I hope you’ll keep in mind as you listen. The role of museums in helping visitors develop identity and the role of identity in conservation practice, which is what climate change work is. All identities are linked to personal values. People with high environmental identity give nature and animals high moral value. These people value our whole biosphere, and they see the world through egalitarian lens with their own connection to it rather than domination of it.

The more central that environmental identity is to the individual, the greater power that identity has in determining that person’s values, attitudes, and feelings. So again, I’ll be giving you a translation of all of the research behind these comments that we are well past talking about the problem, problem of climate change, and that instead, museums are ideally suited as catalysts for engaging the public in climate action. In our museums, people have a chance to examine their connection and responsibilities to people and nature around them, known and unknown. They take it all in, they mix it all together, and in our museums, they’re learning and putting together a new identity so that when they leave, they now are able to go out and do something with that new information.

Again, translating learning about anything climate change or math is situated in the learner, not in the music exhibit or the math teacher, but in the learner who must observe, absorb that information and connect it to everything else that they know. Our role is not to teach climate change, but to create environments in where the visitor sees themselves in relation to it, and with agency to change its trajectory. The world and the cultural sector have made enough advances that we know that one action alone will not cause change, or at least cause enough change. When enough enough of us get together and do things the same way, we are a force. We are capable of changing the behavior of everyone in our communities, and thirdly, that museums are one of the very best places to do that work. So in summary, people who care for the planet feel a connection to it.

People do things that reflect and support their identity and museums help them build that identity. Now we need to meet all of our visitors to take that and go out into the world and create change. So I’d like to have the rest of our presenters follow me with giving you enough information about the big picture of the identity with people in the United States thinking about climate change in museums, and then how we deploy that in the museum center. So I’ll hand it over to Josh is going to talk to you about where Americans are on climate. Susie’s going to share all the data she’s uncovered about museum-goers and climate change. Then Stephanie will share what she and her staff thought they knew and learned and are continuing to learn in their marvelous exhibit, Climate Solutions. Thank you.

Joshua Low:

Thank you so much. My name is Joshua Low. I’m the partnerships director for the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. We’re a research center based at the Yale School of Environment. We do two things: we do research, we do scientific studies on public beliefs, attitudes and behaviors, and we do partnerships. So we help people apply those research insights, generate their own insights to build public and political will for climate action. Reflecting on that introduction, I just want to say how important museums have been to me in creating my identity, whether it’s by curiosity about science, the arts or other things, plant word, as you see is amazing. So thank you to the museum sector for that. It’s a huge part of why I’m here today. So my role here is to talk about what Americans think about climate change, so we’re going to talk about beliefs and attitudes.

We’re going to talk about a segmentation analysis that we do called the Six Americas, and then we’re going to talk about some of the things that work. So the first rule of any communication is to know your audience. So with that, how many of folks have heard of the Yale Program or Climate Change Communication or why I would say, “Oh, wow! That’s incredible! Thank you so much for knowing about us.” So we do a twice yearly nationally-represented survey called Climate Change in the American Mind. One of the aspects of that is beliefs and attitudes about climate change. Basic things like, do people know that climate change is real or think that it’s real? Yes, seven out 10 Americans think global warming is happening. That is far more than do not think it’s happening. A majority of Americans think that it’s mostly human caused. This is really important because if you don’t think climate change is human caused, you may not think you have the ability to do something about it. So 58% of Americans think climate change is mostly human caused.

A majority of Americans are at least somewhat worried about global warming. I really pay attention to that dark green. I’m not going to try to do the laser pointer thing, but the 27% that are very worried about global warming, that’s more than double what it was in 2010. That is clearly an upward trajectory of more engagement with the issue. Then about half of Americans think that global warming is harming people in the United States right now. So for a long time, global warming has been a problem that is distant in time, distant in space, so a problem for future generations or a problem for developing countries. People are starting to connect those dots about why it matters to them and their community. But most Americans rarely or never discuss it, and that is a huge problem. That leads to a spiral of silence that we’ll talk about in a minute. But basically, people don’t realize that most people are worried about this because they don’t talk about it.

But the good news is that a majority of Americans feel at least somewhat of a responsibility to do something about it personally. So that’s a real opportunity for museums and other cultural institutions to help empower them and give them the resources to take that action. But Americans are not just climate activists or climate deniers. There’s a whole range of where Americans are at, and we’ve put those into segmentation analysis we call the Six Americas. So that’s the alarmed, concerned, cautious, disengaged, doubtful and dismissive. Just quick, who thinks that cautious is the largest group? Any hands? Alarmed? Alarmed? One for alarmed. Concerned? Okay. Okay, so y’all are all right. Concerned is just slightly bigger than alarmed.

So the alarmed, they’re the people who think climate change is real. It’s happening now. They want messages about what they can do about it, and they may have never been asked to take action, but this is a substantial and growing group of Americans. The concerned are worried about global warming, but they may not connect the dots and say that it’s a problem here and now for our community. They’re still looking for ways that they can take action and are still able to be engaged on the issue. The cautious know less about global warming. They may not understand that there’s a scientific consensus about it, but this is a population that can be educated about the issue. They’re the moderate middle of America. The disengaged really haven’t thought very much about climate change. They have the lowest education and income levels, but because they haven’t thought very much about it, there’s the opportunity to educate them and provide them with ways that they can take action.

We’re not sure, but we think that if you can get them engaged, then they’ll leapfrog to the alarmed. Doubtful, these are folks that if they think global warming is real, it’s not human caused. They’re probably still persuadable, but it’s going to be hard. The dismissive, well, they’re your crazy uncle. They’re very loud. Our recommendation is not to spend a lot of time trying to convince them. They’re very set in their ways, they’re very engaged, and they’re a challenge. So y’all were right, the concerned is the biggest group, just one percentage point that’s within the margin of error for us. Together, the alarmed at 26%, concerned at 27%, and cautious at 17% present a massive addressable audience for y’all to engage in your programs. But the national audience is not necessarily your audience, so we created the Six Americas Super Short Survey, or SASSY. It’s a four-question panel that you can employ in your exhibits, in your audience surveys, in your member surveys, and really find out where Americans are at.

We have a group scoring tool and we also have an API, so if you want to program it into a kiosk, you can do that. Happy to help you apply that. So some of the things that work, so the scientific consensus message. We test this over and over and over again, and the fact that 97% of climate scientists have agreed that global warming is happening and human caused, that consistently produces lift. Human stories like the ones that we’re going to hear about in a bit, they always work. Being able to picture an individual always works, especially if that person looks like the audience. It’s important to break the spiral of silence. I think museums are one of these very cool places where you can create spaces and encourage your audience and visitors and supporters to have these conversations and break that spiral of silence. We know when you have conversations, you’re much more likely to think that you can do something about it and to take action.

It’s important to connect the dots. We do this through Yale Climate Connections, which is a daily radio program, 90 seconds long. It’s also a podcast that tells stories of solutions, of people taking action and of local problems. So if y’all were looking for a model or looking for some inspiration, I can pretty much guarantee that there’s a story in your local community. We’ve done over 2000 stories at this point, so go ahead and look them up. Like in Colorado, I can think of stories on the Western slope and in Denver. They’re all over the place. Also, leveraging the power of social norms. So we know that we look around to each other for cues on what we should be doing and what we should believing. Those people who perceive a greater social consensus are more supportive of both policy behaviors and also taking action.

A great group called Action for the Climate Emergency applied this in recruiting teachers to teach about climate change. So in their ads, asking teachers to download their curriculum, eight in 10 adults say that teachers should teach about climate change at school. That was their most effective ad to date because it implied a social norm. They also did a really smart thing in that around, and they built a sense of efficacy and hope. As an educator, you have the power to equip young people. That’s one of the reasons why I am so excited to talk to you today. As museums, you have the power to equip young people and let them know that they have power and agency over this issue. So with that, please keep in touch. Our website is up there with all the information about Six Americas and our SASSY tool. You can reach out to me directly. With that, at two seconds left, I’m going to turn it over to Susie for the museum perspective.

Susie Wilkening:

I love going after that ’cause it is just perfect segue way into what our audiences think about the topic. So I’m Susie Wilkening, and I run the Annual Survey of Museum-Goers that I do in partnership with the American Alliance Museums. So what we’re going to share today are the results from the 2022 Annual Survey of Museum-Goers where climate change is one of the main themes. This is results from over 94,000 frequent museum-goers across the country as well as a broader population sample of, I forget, it’s like 1,000 or something. What I’m sharing with you today are pulled from data stories that are available both on the AAM website and on the Wilkening Consulting website. You can also download this from the app. But so some of you may have seen this already for data stories, but it is really brand new kind of research too. So we all know we’re living in a warming climate, and we all know that not everybody agrees that there is a problem. In fact, there’s that small percentage who are just digging in their heels. What did you call them again? They’re hugging-

Joshua Low:


Susie Wilkening:

The dismissive, hugging the gas pumps, and there are those that are in the middle who are more ambivalent or skeptical. So we wanted to think about what can we do as museums to be more effective at sharing climate change content and in ways that will pull people into this topic wherever they are on the spectrum of ideas? So here’s my little methodology, 94,000 people, but we ask them a series of five questions to get at how do they feel about climate change, especially in museum settings? We didn’t think that fewer questions were really fair, it takes a few questions. So the first question that we asked, we call it an indirect assessment. The question was one of the most important ways that museums should share content with visitors. There was a whole bunch of different answer choices, but there was one that we were really interested in for this purpose.

One of the answer choices was motivating visitors to learn more about climate change issues. Now, we had about a quarter of frequent museum-goers choose it and about 20% of U.S. adults of that broader population sample. That feels really discouraging, doesn’t it? Right? Yeah, but it’s an indirect assessment. This is really important ’cause this goes into survey psychology. So respondents at this point in the survey had not seen a single question about climate change. A lot of people don’t really think about climate change when it comes to museums, and so they saw this answer and maybe it wasn’t that important to them. They skipped over it. They didn’t feel judged for skipping over it either, that’s really important. The people who did choose it, we can pretty much assume that they really feel strongly about climate change and want museums to be tackling it as an issue.

So it helps us identify those really strong believers, so that’s why we use that indirect. Second was a credibility question, and this was specifically about climate change. Who’s credible when it comes to climate change content? We gave 10 sources of information they could choose from, and the good news is science wins. Scientists and researchers were the top choice. I am perfectly happy with them being the top choice, but we came in second, and very, very few respondents actually said none of these. Here you can actually see the data. 83% of frequent museum-goers said scientists and researchers, 59% said museums. It’s a little bit lower for the broader population, that’s pretty normal. Only 7% of frequent museum-goers said none of these.

Questions three and four, this is where we get to different museum types ’cause this is where we have the ability to really look at and think about this through these lenses, ’cause I bet you there’s a few history museums and art museums here in the room. That’s something that’s a little trickier with the audience than it is for a science center. So we ask two different questions: What types of museums should be working to reduce their carbon footprint and operate in more sustainable ways? If you look at this, what you see, those blue bars, I know the numbers are a little small, but consistently 87 to 89% for every single museum type. So no matter what type of museum you are, the public expects you to be doing your part. Only 9% of frequent museum-goers said none of these. The broader population, a little bit lower numbers, but only 14% said none of these. What types of museums should be educating the public about climate change?

This is a very different question. There you see a lot more difference up on the screen where it seems, of course, science centers and planetariums, 87% among those frequent museum-goers, botanical gardens, 82%, but then you get to historic sites, 54%. It’s still a majority, but it just doesn’t make as much sense to everybody. Only 8% said climate change is not a topic museums should cover. So again, that vocal minority, they’re small and it’s 12% in the broader population. Okay. Keeping going with the spectrum, the direct assessment. This is where we fly out, we just ask them, “How important is this to you?” We wanted to see who was willing to say it was not important to them. That’s the purpose of this question. What we see here among frequent museum-goers is that the vast majority say it’s somewhat or extremely important. Actually, we have almost identical numbers from the broader population.

Only 15% said not very or not at all important, 18% for the broader population. It lines up beautifully with your numbers. There are hundreds of the different pathways people could take through these five questions. We chart it all out and we create the spectrum so you can get a sense of how do frequent museum-goers across the country feel about this topic, and how do U.S. adults feel about it? Thinking through that lens of museum content and museum action specifically, and what we do see is far more people are on that green side of the spectrum than really that anti-green or denier or whatever we want to call them side. Okay, but there’s a lot of nuance underneath this, so we’re just going to boil it down to the big takeaways. Takeaway number one, the public wants us to talk about climate change, and they want us to be more sustainable ourselves.

It’s an obligation. Everybody has to do their part. The biggest takeaway was that this isn’t even controversial. For most people, this is something that we should be doing. The only people who really see controversy here is that small percentage who are way out there going, “Nope. Nope.” The ones who are denying still or saying, “It’s all natural,” they’re the ones who are saying no. But most people, this is not controversial at all. Now, let’s be clear, you’ll still get pushback because that anti-green side, the side that just, it feels really strongly, “This is not an issue,” they are so vocal. They are very emotional about the topic. It’s like that cornered wild animal who’s going to just lash out, that’s exactly what’s happening there.

They get even angry when they’re presented a climate change content. You have to be ready for that, and especially your frontline staff has to be ready for that venom. But remember, they are outliers, and they do not represent the majority of people. So that makes it really, really important that we contextualize. We contextualize their concerns ’cause they are still concerned with that big picture that they are those outliers. We don’t want to ignore them, we still have to deal with it, but we still can contextualize those concerns and then move forward to talk about it and inspire action where it’s so necessary. Okay, takeaway two. It’s political, but it’s really not. For most people, climate change does not seem like a political topic, it’s a crisis.

The only people who really talk about it as being a political topic and say, “Oh, you museums don’t get political,” tend to fall on that anti-green side of the spectrum. It’s one of their defense mechanisms to keep you from talking about this, so it’s not actually a political topic for most. Then that politics here gets really interesting, ’cause we looked across the political spectrum. We asked political values in our survey. Yeah, generally, what we did find is what you expect that Democrats are more likely or people who are more liberal are more likely to be on that green side of the spectrum, and people who are more conservative are going to be more likely to be on that anti-green side. But there was a couple of twists that are really important to be thinking about. In our broader population sampling, conservatives were more likely to fall on the green side of the spectrum than the anti-green side.

I’m going to say that again. Conservatives were more likely to be green than anti-green. The reason why it’s older conservatives who fall on the anti-green side, and we have a lot of older conservatives in the Annual Survey of Museum-Goers, especially from art and history museums especially, or history museums, so it says older conservatives who are anti-green and vocal. Younger conservatives, the majority of conservatives under age 50 think climate change is real and we should do something about it. We don’t think that’s going to change ’cause let’s just be frank about it, the weather is not going to let that happen. So we think there’s going to be these incremental shifts among the conservative attitudes over the next several years that you’ll really see taking place. Takeaway three, climate change content belongs in art and history museums too. Majority of museum-goers say is an appropriate topic for museums of all types.

But that middle part of the spectrum, the people who are a little bit more ambivalent, they are more likely to think that museums devoted to science and nature are the appropriate venues and draw the line at art and history museums. They say, “It’s not your mission.” So let’s talk about that concern. So those more ambivalent audiences, they tend to view if they’re at an art museum or a historic site, they view that inclusion of climate change content is coming at the expense of art or history. “I came here to see the art. It’s a zero-sum game. You gave me climate change, it took away from my art. That’s not what I was hoping for during my visit. It’s not relevant to your mission, therefore it’s inappropriate.” So here are some comments that are typical. “I just don’t want to receive information on climate change from an art or historical museum. I don’t believe they have the charter or expertise to opine on the topic.”

I love museum-goers. I love how they talk. “I welcome and expect to hear about climate change in the appropriate context, zoos, aquarium, science centers, and possibly natural history. Otherwise, I perceive it as an encroachment on my experience.” See, it’s that zero-sum game, right? So does that mean art and history museums shouldn’t talk about it? No, no, we’re not saying that. Instead, it’s really important if you’re an art history museum that you make a very explicit tie to your mission because doing so will bring those more ambivalent audiences along with you. Don’t forget, the majority of frequent museum-goers and actually more casual and sporadic ones think you are an appropriate venue and nearly nine out of 10 think you should reduce your carbon footprint and be more sustainable, so it’s there.

Here’s some comments and lovely more comments. I love that museum-goers just pour out their hearts to us. It’s awesome, ’cause here’s somebody talking about art and how art and artists can offer unique perspectives and insights on this subject. “Art can help engage and connect us to a deeper understanding of what is at stake. It will do us no good to save the things in the past if we destroy our planet today.” So they’re really thinking about that future piece, it’s also about the future of museums itself. Okay, takeaway number four, and this is something that if this interests you, I’m going to talking about a lot more tomorrow. A connection to humanity and humankind matters. So when we ran filters to compare the different segments of the climate change spectrum, there was a new surprise waiting for us, ’cause those five little filters that we had, we just run filters.

We’ll compare those audiences as we geek out. Individuals from the anti-green side of that spectrum were far less likely to feel connected to humanity or humankind than those on the green side. We had questions in our survey about health and well-being as well as climate change. Two of the questions we asked included responses connected with humanity and what it means to be human. Museums should engender a connection with what it means to be human. The anti-green side was like less than 20% checked the green side over 60%, same with the other one. We were looking at this consistently across those responses.

Basically, what we found it’s this huge gap between those who care about the climate and that connection to humanity and those who don’t care and don’t have that connection and don’t want to engender that connection; massive, massive statistical gap between them. We found the same pattern when we looked at the spectrum that we run on inclusive attitudes as well. So we started really wondering, does an individual feeling a connection with humanity, including all of humankind that looks and thinks differently than them drive their pro-social outcomes around climate change, attitudes, inclusive attitudes, and perhaps other issues such as public health? So if you would like to get a sneak peek of the first stab at the response, results from tomorrow on the 2023 Annual Survey of Museum-Goers, 8:00 tomorrow morning. We’ll talk about that to talk about more why that piece seems to really, really matter. Thank you very much.

Stephaine Ratcliffe:

Good morning. I’m Stephanie Ratcliffe. I’m the executive director of the Wild Center. We are located in the Adirondack Park in upstate New York. Where’s the down?

Joshua Low:

[inaudible 00:28:38]

Stephaine Ratcliffe:

Oh, forward. Okay, thank you. We are a 150-acre campus. We have indoor/outdoor exhibits. We interpret our green building, and we also do youth climate summits, just to give you a little context of our previous climate work. Today, I’m going to be talking about Climate Solutions. It is a exhibition and related programming that we opened this summer. So the project components were a 3000-square foot exhibition, a Tinkering Studio within the exhibition. Then we integrated things across our campus, and we also have a Science on a Sphere in which we do a lot of climate programming. We made a special movie, and we completely gave ourselves a… taking ourselves to really walking the walk with our cafe and store also during this process. Before we started this process, and we were very well, and you will hear through my talk today, we integrated the Yale work and particularly the SASSY Survey through every part of our exhibit development process.

That began with the survey of the staff asking them where they thought our audience was. If we were to do the SASSY Survey, which we did, and I’ll show you in a minute, where did they think that it was going to land? You will see that the staff assumptions is in the green bar. So this conspiracy of silence, what the big takeaway here is that we can very easily self-censor ourselves if we don’t use some research and make our decisions based on what our audience really thinks. So this was a real interesting development. So we surveyed our audience and our summer audience because it was during COVID and we had an entire census of everyone coming because of the time tickets, we were able to very easily do a random sample and collect data.

It turned out that 84% of our Wild Center audience was already alarmed or concerned from the Six Americas that Josh has outlined. We didn’t believe those results. We thought, “Okay, is there something going on with COVID? Is it something that those are the ones that came to the Nature Museum in their time of crisis, what is going on?” So we did another sampling and the winter audience, which is a little bit more local in our rural environment, still came out to 82%. Given this, and this is just a quick slide to show you how we stack up to the national average, and so our Wild Center audience makes complete sense in the middle of a nature area that is a fan club and comes to the Wild Center is already alarmed and concerned, so that makes a lot of sense. Just before I go on to some of the other results of how we use it, I just want to let you know we use the SASSY Survey at every point. We tested and then this is what allowed us to narrow our strategies and our audience for the exhibition.

Then later during the exhibit development part, we also used the SASSY Survey to pre-qualify our audience to be a participant in the prototyping process, which also was online at that point in time. Because of COVID, we had to do it that way, and it was a pre-qualifier to also be participate in the summative evaluation. So going back to Josh’s slides, I grabbed his two slides and just to remember, we have an alarm, concerned, and this is where we drew the line between alarmed and concerned. I want you to take a minute to think about the cautious. We decided to focus on only those two parts of our audience, which were 84 and 82% and not go here because we only had 3000-square feet. These folks needed more convincing about the science, which can happen in other parts of the museum, so we didn’t need to do that. There would be a lot more convincing that we would have to waste time, resources, stories on, and we didn’t need to do that because our goal was to move people to action.

These people had a much further to go, and we literally didn’t have the time and space to meet the goal of how to move people to action. So our project goals to build awareness that climate solutions exist, so this was not about climate change. This was that we have the solutions today, if we scale them up, we can solve climate change. This was all inspired by Project Drawdown if you’re aware of that project. We also wanted people to empower themselves to find agency in addressing climate change in their own lives in spheres of influence. So in this exhibit development process, which you all know is very messy, we also had to come up with filters so that we could narrow down all the different things that we could talk about. So we asked ourselves, “Are there compelling storytellers in our region?” We’re a very placed-based interpretive framework. “Is there potential for an interactive and is this content exhibitable, or are we going to end up with a book on the wall?”

So we tried to be honest with ourselves about that, and then, “Are we considering equity and accessibility in the types of people that we were showcasing as storytellers and that everyone can participate in this particular solution?” So the big idea using Beverly Serrell’s Big Idea framework for exhibit development, here was our big idea. People across sectors, generations and backgrounds are building a web of climate solutions and inviting all of us to find our place in the climate movement. So you’ve already heard some of these things. I’m just going to quickly, storytelling, which is very well established in the literature. We purposely didn’t go overboard in the science because if there happened to be a dismissive or a crazy uncle in the group that we didn’t want to turn them off. We also know that that had to be done very carefully in our other programmatic areas like Science on a Sphere. We’re aware of this, how to ease into this. So there wasn’t a lot of nitty-gritty convincing science even in the telling of the story of the solution.

So we want people to know that solutions exist and an invitation to participate. So again, a storytelling approach, that literature is very well established. Also, the guardrails that the Wild Center has been using is that we offer solutions but we don’t tell you what to do. So our little mantra is, there’s no, “You should, but you could,” is more how we approach it. These are our storytellers, and we very carefully went across our region to find the people, they’re neighbors, literally in our community who were already doing the work and participating in climate solutions that already exist. I’m just going to whip through. I just wanted to show you just there are… This particular toolkit was… this is a prototyping image where we had to do it online and test it. This was all about that you already have the skills to participate in climate in some way, shape, or form.

So this was helping you find the skills that you already have and how to put them to work. Same thing here, “Oh, I don’t have time,” this was a method to have. You see that you could take one minute and it takes one small act. You could take 10 minutes, you could devote a day of action. So this was really opening people’s awareness to all the solutions and how easy it is to become involved. We also use, as I said, portraits and hearing directly from the person who was working on the solution in our region, so hearing directly from the person. So this is our findings from our summative evaluation, so how did we do? Using the solutions framework was clear and effective. So not if it’s happening, not convincing, but leaping to, there is a climate solution and here they are. That personal storytelling was very effective and it made people feel hopeful.

They were very appreciative of the careful way in which we chose our storytellers. From young to old, to a diversity of speakers, everyone was very… They noticed it, and they were appreciative of it, and they were curious. It actually increased it, a lot of curiosity. They also appreciated that we were very much in our tone and our attitude, and this was down to the nuances in the label copy, very much in inviting everyone to be a part of the movement. There was no finger shaking. There was no, “Yeah, you must do this.” There was no guilt. They really appreciated the tone we took and the way in which we invited everyone to be part of the solution. We did find through some certain things that we were asking ’cause we were testing ourselves, a lot of people still either wanted to have their scientific knowledge confirmed in some cases. So the science still was important.

I guess if on this learning from a exhibit developed, we could have put more science in than we did. So this is one I am taking away from someone who helped develop the exhibit that we could have been a little more heavier on the science because they actually wanted more than what we gave them. I’ll leave you with the last quote as we begin to, I think, we’re ending early, so this is terrific, about from this particular person who felt hopeful. Seeing so many different approaches and different faces made someone feel like they could be part of it, that we all don’t have to be superheroes with all the skills and do everything and be the best, that if you have a skill you can put it to work. As Sarah said, if we all collectively do the same thing, that that’s where the power comes from. So that’s what I was reading into these kinds of answers and then let’s get together and that this person was walking out of our exhibition ready to work and ready to take action. So I’m going to end with that.

Sarah Sutton:

Any questions about data or implementing this at your museum on climate change topics?

Speaker 1:

Thank you. Great presentation. Question, is there any data on people that might be skeptical of climate change but when they see that they’re an institution that’s very near and dear to them, say a heritage site of some kind is potentially existentially challenged by sea level rise, et cetera, et cetera, that that actually changes their hearts and minds? Because that’s an interesting aspect, I think, of this segment of the population that needs convincing. It’s when it hits home to them that this actually could be an opportunity.

Sarah Sutton:

So the question is about when you’ve got someone who might not necessarily be on board with climate change and they see something valuable to them, a cultural heritage site at risk because of climate change, do we get any sort of shift? Do we have stories or data on that?

Joshua Low:

So I don’t have specific data on that. I would love to test it. This is one of the wonderful things about social science is we get to test these things, but I think there’s good reason to think that some people who love these sites, these historic sites, will come into this. One of the great things and one of the challenges of climate change is it’s an everything issue, that some people are going to get involved because they love the local park. They’re going to get involved because they love the local historic site that’s getting impacted. They’re going to get involved because their kid them to. So there’s all these entry points to this issue, and I think that you’re hitting upon a potential one for some people. I would love to figure out how we could test that.

Speaker 2:

Can I answer that question? Yeah, I’m the president of Mystic Seaport, so I can tell you that’s what happens because we’re underwater 10 times a year. We won’t have a museum in the next 35 years. We’ve got to find some other site because the Mystic River’s just going to flood ’cause we’re built on reclaimed land, and the river wants it back and we’re not going to win. So we get flooded about 10 to 15 times a year depending on the tides, and we put that out on our Facebook. Everybody thinks that we’re close the next day, but the next day it clears away. But there is a big feeling within the community now that we should be tackling that issue, and they’re very interested. Some people who were not that interested are now interested in us talking about the issue because their beloved Mystic Seaport was under water for that period of time. So we did find there was a big difference in that. I don’t know if people are aware of this organization that’s called History Under Water.

Sarah Sutton:

Keeping History Above Water?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, Keeping History Above Water, that’s it, that’ll be soon underwater as you know. Keeping History Above Water, so that’s one of the groups that we deal with as well. But yes, definitely both anecdotal and statistical information that says when it happens to you and people like what you are, then they become interested.

Sarah Sutton:

Thank you.

Susie Wilkening:

I think Mystic Seaport’s a great example because of talking about and mainstreaming this as something that’s happening to all of us to a place that we care about, because maritime museums, their natural audience often tends to fall on the more skeptical side of climate change. So since they do care so much about places like Mystic Seaport or the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum or any other maritime museum, having those institutions not treat it as controversial, not treat it as political, treat it as reality that is being addressed, I think is a great way to persuade them into more climate action and more climate values-related beliefs as well.

Sarah Sutton:

Strawberry Bank Museum, Portsmouth, New Hampshire has done a great, great job of engaging community on how do we create solutions? I see a hand, microphone back there. Yeah.

Speaker 3:

Yes. Hi, good morning. Thank you for the panel. I was very curious, Susie, and for the Wild Center, I’m sorry, I’m forgetting your name at the moment.

Stephaine Ratcliffe:


Speaker 3:

Stephanie, thank you. The survey of your staff and your invested folks and the public and the difference between those, if you will, what they perceived the public felt and what the public and museum-goers actually felt. I’m curious from both of you and also Susie in particular, many institutions, their greatest stumbling block is their funders and supporters. The other side of it, while our public might be hungry for it and might be receptive to it, many institutions are working within municipalities or in governmental organizations. Their perception of it, I think, might be very different than the public’s. I’m wondering if there’s been any similar kinds of analysis done about museum’s perceptions of what their funders and supporters believe versus what they actually believe.

Susie Wilkening:

Okay. This year’s annual survey, so I’m going to do a little triangulation here, this year’s annual survey has a question in it that basically says, “Do you currently or have you ever worked in a museum, volunteered at a museum or been a member of the board of trustees?” So we actually have a sample, I think, of about 1,500 trustees from across the country, which we now know their political values of. We know their values on a lot of different things through the lens of this year’s survey. They do not skew any differently than frequent museum-goers on the issues in this year’s surveys. I don’t think that they would skew differently on climate change. That does not stop one very vocal, perhaps rich trustee from stopping something in its tracks. It doesn’t stop the political realities that are going to be very different across the country.

I will also say that when I shared individual museum results with the museums that participated in last year’s survey, there was a lot of surprise like… Where is Stephanie? Like Stephanie’s staff had that the results came back the way they did. I think what we all tend to do, ’cause it’s our human nature, is we over amplify criticism. I have a whole data story on that, you should go read it. But there’s also something that’s called the false consensus effect. It’s something that people who are outliers at the extreme end of something really are effective at deploying and on climate change, the far right is very effective at deploying. There’s a lot of people who think this is just a hoax. There’s a lot of people think we can’t do anything about. There’s a lot of people that actually silences us, and then we look at the data and we see it’s [inaudible 00:46:36] small group. So don’t let your organization fall victim to the false consensus effect because it probably doesn’t exist.

Stephaine Ratcliffe:

I’ll answer one thing is, I was paranoid at the beginning of this. So all of these surveys and using Yale and some really smart advisors on my team, I was paranoid something might happen from some corner of power people in my organization or community. So that was another reason from the very beginning I wanted to have the data behind me in order to be able to combat this, ’cause it could have come just from a newspaper or it could have come from a trustee. None of those things have happened to me, but I am ready if it still happens. It still could happen, but we’re ready, and it’s great to have that in your pocket.

Sarah Sutton:

You have the whole room behind you if anyone comes after you. One here and then we’ll go to purple scarf.

Speaker 4:

Thank you. I’m curious if you see regional trends in the data that this small but vocal minority is, that’s true across the country or if in certain areas. So for example, I live in Houston, Texas, which is an energy petroleum plastics center for industry. So my assumption has always been that this is not a topic that’s welcome, that the majority of people feel that they’re the… what was the … The deniers-

Joshua Low:

The dismissives.

Speaker 4:

The dismissives, yeah.

Joshua Low:


Speaker 4:

Do you see that, in fact, across the country we’re seeing this, or do you see these regional pockets?

Sarah Sutton:

Do you maybe have some Texas data?

Joshua Low:

Yeah, so we do see that there are regional differences, and we actually have data on our website through our Yale Climate Opinion Maps where you can dive into Harris County and see where people in Harris County are. Having looked at some of that data of where people in Harris County are, there are a lot of people in Harris County that are alarmed, concerned, and cautious, and that’s especially true for the Latino community, the African… Houston is this incredibly diverse place, and that is driving a lot of support for climate action. So I think you actually probably have a lot of support. Obviously, you’re going to have more people who work in the oil industry, but a lot of those people care about climate change too.

Susie Wilkening:

Among museum-goers, no, I saw no difference. The big difference we saw in museum-goers was the type of museum, because when they thought a history museum-goer thinking about history museums, they’re going to be like, “Ugh, what mission?” But museum-goers for the most part are museum-goers or museum-goers across the country. The main difference is we tend to see that there are certain museums that skew a little bit more conservative in their audience base than others. So obviously the Pro Football Hall of Fame is going to have a very different audience than the Seattle Art Museum. I’m not going to say what the results were, but you can imagine, ’cause I don’t give out results. So there are going to be differences in those audiences based on the type of museum is more what we saw than any regional differences among those museum-goers.

Sarah Sutton:

So we have two minutes left. [inaudible 00:50:04] Yes, let’s make sure we get those two, right here with the purple scarf. Thanks.

Speaker 5:

Great. Thank you for a terrific presentation. This is a question actually for you, Stephanie. So in addition to that great summative evaluation data, I just wonder if you have built in any mechanism to follow up with people after the fact that people that felt moved to action as to what action they have taken or continued. In what ways have they changed over time? Is that part of the story?

Stephaine Ratcliffe:

We fantasized about it and then the evaluation money ran out, so no, but great idea.

Sarah Sutton:

One more.

Speaker 6:

Thank you for the great presentation. So given that there are some communities and groups, and I’m thinking specifically about racial and cultural groups that tend to be very distrustful of scientists, I’m wondering if some of your results were disaggregated to look at that, particularly those on trust and on the norms and what that might mean for how we shift the types of communications that we do around this and other science topics.

Joshua Low:

Do you want to talk about museums or do you-

Susie Wilkening:

Frequent museum-goers tend to come in with a trust of museums already, and so we don’t tend to see a lot of differences by race or ethnicity on these kinds of questions. There were a little bit more differences among the broader population, which I think you can probably speak a little bit more about.

Joshua Low:

Yeah. Amongst the broader population, we find that African Americans, Latinos are more likely to be alarmed or concerned about climate change, that women tend to be more likely to be alarmed or concerned about climate change. So I think when I look at that data, I see a real appetite amongst many communities. That doesn’t mean that a particular neighborhood or a particular community won’t have an adverse experience that they’re working through. You know your community’s better than I do, but I think that as a whole, African Americans and Latinos are going to be a great audience for engaging on this content. We see that with the social movement organizations that I work with.

Sarah Sutton:

With that, we need to close our presentation, but thank you all for your climate thinking and your climate work and for coming. We’ll stay and chat as long as we can.

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