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Changing Tides: Public Attitudes on Climate Migration

Little existing work studies public perceptions of climate-induced migration. We redress this gap, drawing on diverse literatures in political science and social psychology. We argue that climate migrants occupy an intermediate position in the public view, garnering greater support than traditional economic migrants but less support than refugees. Evidence from a conjoint experiment embedded in nationally representative surveys of 2,160 respondents in the United States and Germany provide support for this claim. Importantly, this result holds for internal and international migrants. These findings suggest the importance of humanitarian considerations and empathy in shaping migration attitudes. We use a follow-up factorial experiment to explore potential policy implications of public support for climate migrants. We find no evidence that priming climate migration increases support for climate change mitigation, echoing existing work on the difficulty of mobilizing climate action and suggesting that climate migration is unlikely to spur greater support for mitigating climate change.