Economy “versus” Environment: The Influence of Economic Ideology and Political Identity on Perceived Threat of Eco-Catastrophe

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Using data from a national survey of American adults, we examine the relationships between economic, political, sociodemographic, and religious characteristics with perception of the potential for eco-catastrophe. We employ the treadmill of production theory to frame our understanding of views about ecological concerns, arguing that the treadmill discourse associated with economic development is hegemonic and fundamentally shapes public views of eco-catastrophe. In line with this approach, economic ideology is the strongest predictor of attitudes about eco-catastrophe, and its influence is conditioned by political identity. There is also significant patterning in these perceptions based on gender, race, education, and religion, but the influence of social characteristics is primarily indirect—mediated by economic ideology and political identity. These results provide useful information for addressing environmental problems in public discourse and bridging policy divides.