1) Select an environmental issue that matters to you, which depends on or relates in some way on mass public opinion/behavior. It is best if you select an issue for which there is a sufficient amount of opinion data available for you to research.
2) Submit a 1-2 sentence description of the issue you wish to study AND a brief list of 3-5 relevant survey results (i.e., particular questions or longer questionnaires) you have found, by Nov. 12. Bring in a complete rough draft to class on Nov. 19.The final draft is due at the beginning of class on Dec. 1.
3) Write a research paper, approximately 1500 – 2000 words in length, that assesses the current state of public opinion and/or knowledge with respect to the issue you chose, its implications and consequences, and the realistic prospects of shifting opinions and beliefs. The paper should take care to address each of the following areas:
(i) Implications — a brief discussion of the problem itself and how, specifically, mass public opinion or beliefs are important;
(ii) (ii) Status Quo — an evidence-based discussion of current attitudes and beliefs in the mass public regarding the issue; and
(iii) (iii) Change — discussion and/or strategy of how, if at all, public opinion could be changed or leveraged in order to address the environmental issue. The paper should be double-spaced, in 12-point Times New Roman or Calibri font, with 1-inch margins.
4) A highly successful paper would consider as many as possible of the following questions:
I. Implications- Briefly describe the issue you chose. What are the implications of public opinions, behaviors, perceptions, and beliefs for this issue? Why do they matter? Could public opinion either spur or block important changes in the market or public policy? Have they done so already in the past? Does addressing the issue rely on changing private individual-level behaviors (e.g. littering or recycling)?
II. Status Quo -Based on your research, how do people generally think, feel, and behave toward this issue? How much do they know about it? How much do they care about it? How, if at all, have these opinions and beliefs changed over time? How, if at all, are these opinions and beliefs different across various states, countries, demographics, and subgroups of the population? What are the most likely explanations for why people think and feel this way? What events, dialogues, messages, life experiences, campaigns, emotional attachments, or biases may have shaped them?
III. Change - In what ways, if at all, would public opinions, behaviors, perceptions, and/or beliefs need to change in order to address the environmental issue? How likely are these changes to actually take place? What factors and hypothetical situations could affect whether these changes occur? How might you go about trying to create or foster these changes? What kinds of rational and emotional appeals might be most effective? What are the major obstacles that might prevent these changes from taking place, and how easy are they to overcome?