Hoosier Life Survey

Documenting Hoosier attitudes

Members of the Hoosier Life Survey Team. From left to right, Elizabeth Grennan Browning, Eric Sandweiss, Beth Gazley, LeeAnn Sell, and Matthew Houser.

The Hoosier Life Survey (HLS) is one of the most comprehensive statewide public-opinion surveys of environmental change to date. Conducted between August and December 2019, the survey offers Indiana-specific insights on public attitudes toward environmental change, personal values, trust in news media, attitudes toward a variety of kinds of risk, and more.

ERI Fellow Matthew Houser, IU Professor Eric Sandweiss, the IU Center for Survey Research, and their collaborators reached out to 10,000 Hoosiers across the state, focusing on seven distinct historical and geographic regions and their major communities: the Industrial Northwest, Corn and Soy Belt, Metropolitan Indianapolis, Southeast, Wabash River Valley, Southwestern/Indiana Uplands, and Ohio River Valley.

In total, more than 2,700 Hoosiers—representing 90 of the state’s 92 counties—responded. Taken together, respondents’ answers show what Hoosiers think about environmental change—its origins, its extent, its impact on their families. The survey also indicates how Hoosiers learn about the issues vital to their future—who they trust, who they listen to, and who they’d like to hear more from.

The HLS highlights how much Indiana residents are already doing—or are prepared to do—to build resilience against environmental change. And it reveals the role of political and personal values—along with social, demographic, and economic differences—in shaping Hoosiers' approach to a global challenge.

Among the survey’s key findings:

  • More than half (58 percent) of Hoosiers believe that environmental change is adversely affecting Americans right now; more than two-thirds (72 percent) believe that they, themselves, will feel its impact in some way.
  • Roughly one-third of Hoosiers report experiencing recent increases in each of these adverse signs of environmental change: heavy rains, hot days, and mosquitoes. Only a small minority have perceived a decrease in these or other climate-related problems.
  • A majority of Hoosier households have already taken simple steps (e.g. shade trees, improved insulation, programmable thermostats, etc.) to improve their household’s resilience in the face of extreme weather events; a substantial minority would like to do more.
  • The number of Hoosiers expressing support for public funding of resilience improvements rises if the proposed cost is borne by wealthier residents or by those industries with the greatest direct responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions.

To view more Hoosier Life Survey results, go to the Hoosier Life Survey Opinion Map page.

HLS Presentation

View an overview of the study's origin, process, and initial data products.

Description of the video:

>> My name is Eric Sandweiss, I'm a Professor of History here at IU Bloomington. I'll kick off this brief presentation, turn it over to my colleague, Matt Houser, after a few moments of introduction. So that he can share with you a bit more about just the detail and the many intriguing findings that we're just beginning to get into as a result of creating what Janet already introduced as The Hoosier Life Survey.

Matt and I will present this work on behalf of a much larger group, some whom you see here back in the sunny days when people used to sit together on benches under trees, you remember all of that. Since we don't do that anymore, at least for the moment, you'll see on the left how you can reach me, Matt, and many others whose contributions were really necessary to creating what, we hope we can rightfully claim, is the largest statewide survey of attitudes toward climate and environmental change.

Let me go back here for just a moment by way of introduction, and say that the Environmental Resilience Institute, with which you're being introduced today, and many of you have already interacted, is really the result of one of a handful of so called grand challenges. That were introduced and funded through IU through president Michael McRobbie's office, and with the donations of a number of corporate and philanthropic funders, as well as the citizens of Indiana.

Now, these grand challenges were designed to capture really serious issues, as the name implies, but also issues that could be, in fact, studied to the goal of being resolved. And the second of the grand challenges, after one on targeted genetic, Implications of various cancers that can be cured.

The second one was called prepared for environmental change. That is the grand challenge that, after having been funded, created out of itself this Environmental Resilience Institute, which Gabe, Matt, Janet and Andrea and others represent, and which is here to help the work that you do. I mention this only because of the fact that prepared for environmental change, the phrase itself implies, with its adjective, implies a human group.

Who is prepared? Obviously, it's human beings. And in this case it's the people of Indiana, with whom we're most concerned. This is a global issue, as this group needs no reminder. And yet it has local and regional implications, and local and regional solutions, as big as the problems are.

So in the interest of understanding how to be prepared, how to be resilient as, the word that we adopted finally had it, a number of the people who were on this team were not just natural scientists studying things like the vectors of ticks and other insects, but also social scientists, humanists, artists even.

People who were there to talk about the human dimension of environmental change. Because if you know all that you know about changing climate, and you still don't know about whom it affects or how they respond when it does affect them, then you haven't increased resilience, you haven't increased preparation at all.

So among those humanists, and among those social scientists, was me and others. I'm a historian, and in particular, as Janet mentioned, a historian of Indiana. Early on in the process, as we were thinking about how to kind of involve and centralize the human element in this quest for environmental resilience, we thought about our state's past.

And we thought about how fundamentally important is not just the environmental natural landscape with which we're dealing, and that we're studying, but also the social and the political landscape, the cultural landscape of this place that uniquely calls itself Indiana. It really wasn't Indiana, of course, as you know, from fourth grade history, or hopefully more recently.

This was simply the place between many different claims. In this case a New France, as you can see the claims of the French Empire, the British just to the east, eventually the Spanish to south and west. And you can understand more than about how Indiana has always been, indeed, a crossroads, a place that involved as the central meeting point, not just of climates and of ecosystems, but of human cultural and social systems.

And it's that connectedness and that kind of interaction of so many trends in American history and American social and political life that have distinguished Indiana in many ways from the time of the establishment of statehood in 1816. I show you this much later map just so you get a sense of how crisscrossed this place is.

And how fundamentally justified, in a way, Indianapolis, and Indiana more generally, is in calling itself a crossroads, a crossroads of America. That has implications, not just for vectors of disease, as Gabe was talking about, but for the ways in which people, our constituents, your fellow citizens, the people whom you serve and to whom you respond, the ways in which they will or will not deal with climate and environmental change.

It's because India was a crossroads, and because it was priding itself on being in the middle of so many things, that some years later a team of sociologists, a husband and wife primarily, named Robert and Helen Lin, chose one typical, they thought, Indiana, small city. The place Muncie, that you see on the screen here, as the place in which to ground their own study of how Americans live as of the 1920s.

They didn't call it Muncie, they called it middle town. And by doing so what they really meant to emphasize was this town, among all the cities in this state, among all the states in this country, could tell us something about Americans attitudes toward their life, toward the changing world around them, in a way that captured a place that was not too extreme on any given end.

Was not too notably distinct or different or unique, but instead represented a kind of a blend, a of American traits. And in many ways, Indiana still does that. As we were preparing the Environmental Resilience Institute's activities, one of the things that we thought about was coming back to that study, the Middletown study of the 1920s, followed up in the 1930s.

As many of you know, still followed up today under the auspices of Ball state's Center for Middletown Studies. What would have happened if those sociologists in the 1920s and 30s had been more attuned to or had been concerned for the fact that the environment in a less visible manner at the time, but nevertheless already happening, the environment itself was changing.

The ground under our feet was changing. What questions would they have asked of their fellow cruisers, if they had also realized that the fundamental ways in which we define ourselves, in which we earn a living, which we raise our families, and so on. Those fundamental ways depend on certain expectations about our climate, about our landscape, about the availability of natural resources, and so on.

And what we thought in our very vain and ambitious early days, was that we would create a kind of a middle town study for the 21st century that we would pull Indiana's as well. And in this case, ask them a little bit about themselves, about their values, about their beliefs, but also frame it within this larger question of how is our climate change impacting you?

How prepared are you to acknowledge it, to attribute the causes that scientists themselves seem to be coming up with, and to prepare yourself and your family for the changes that are yet to come? That is what the Hoosier life survey tempted to do and that's what Matt will show you in a moment.

The early results are, are Hoosiers indeed prepared for environmental change as we hope they will be? What can we learn from them about our readiness for the future? And in particular with a group, like those of you who are here today, how can we tailor our own suggestions for policies, for practices toward what we know, Hoosiers value, what they are prepared to do and what they prefer not to do and others?

Another is what can we learn from our own constituents today that really is unique to this state, to this constituency in the midst of what is undeniably a set of global changes? Matt, if you're prepared, I will stop sharing, and I'll turn it over to you to talk a little bit about what we did find.

>> Excellent, thank you so much, Eric. That was lovely, let me get my screen shared here. How's that looking for everyone? Good? Good.
>> Excellent, thank you, Janet. So, building on Eric's introduction, I wanna talk a little bit about why do we actually do the survey in the context of how is it unique?

How does it relate to other work on this topic? As you all know, climate change is a global problem, but it requires responses at all levels. In the world of the social sciences though, many of the major climate change public opinion surveys that are going on right now are nationally representative.

And so they talk about Americans and Americans views broadly. These are ones that you might be familiar with, they're pretty well known. Pew Research first one, Q there's one, Gallup there's one. And I am not here to disparage them, these are awesome surveys, they give us really important information about Americans.

But there's also a need to better understand local, or in other words, subnational populations views the state, and within state. And this is because these levels, the state within state public opinion, might actually be able to help support or even encourage action at these levels which is necessary.

At this point, if you're familiar with public opinion on climate change research at all, you're probably saying, hey Matt, what about Yale? If you haven't seen Yale's climate change public opinion maps, this is a screenshot from their website. And as you can see, if you can kind of navigate around, and look down even at the county level, and see what people across the counties of Indiana for instance think about, in this case, is global warming happening?

You can do this for every county in the country, it's very extensive, it's an awesome tool, super important. But I do wanna point something out, and that's right here. These are estimated percentages, so Yale uses sophisticated modeling technique where they take what is usually national level survey data.

And then they predict what people at the state, at the congressional, at the metro, and at the county level would say if they had asked them. So whenever they talk about Indiana for instance, they might be talking about Hoosier's opinion on climate change, both at the state and within counties.

And they never have asked anyone in Indiana that question, it's very possible, that's not their focus. So we felt like if we wanted to talk about what Hoosiers across the state thought about climate change, we should ask them. And so we did the survey with an intention to complementing, and building on these existing surveys, because we wanted to provide state level and within state level data.

To do that, we wanted to actually ask actual Hoosiers the questions and have their data rather than predictions about their data. And we wanted to focus on climate resilience, including household practices and policies which has just been given very little attention in terms of how humans feel in our doings in any survey both in the United States or across the world.

So how do we actually do the Hoosiers Life Survey? I'm gonna give you the very short version here. We started sending out mailers to people across the state between August and December 2019, and we sent those mailers to 10,000 Hoosier households. We gave Hoosiers the option to fill the survey out online at first.

But a lot of people across the country and then in Indiana it's actually a big issue, don't have computers, or don't have Internet or high speed Internet. And so, for people that didn't fill out the survey online, we will send them follow up mailings with a paper copy so they could use pen and pencil.

So in many ways, this is the gold standard of doing surveys. And out of that 10,000 that we send to our weighted response rate, was around 29%. Which is pretty good in these days and age, particularly considering that we asked about what has become a controversial topic. And the data I'm about to present on comes from a variety of our reports, which I have links to at the end of this talk.

So what did we actually find? We asked over 100 questions, so I can't talk about all of those results even though I'm really excited about all of them. So my goal here is really just to peak your interest, and I hope that you will explore further. The first thing I wanna note is that some of our results point to key differences within the public.

Which really represent the visions and inequities around the issue of climate change that likely need to be addressed. The first chart I'll show you here is the percent of Hoosiers that believe climate change is caused by human activity. That, that is the primary cause, and you see on average 34% of Hoosiers believe that.

But whenever we look at political party, we see strong divisions between Democrats and Republicans on this issue. And this is something that moving forward, I think we're gonna need to figure out how to address, how can we get a more equal representation of the scientific understanding as the folks from Purdue gave us in such a lovely presentation earlier.

How can we get that representation held equally across the states citizens? Beyond political differences we know from again talks earlier in the day, but also from the CDC and research in Indianapolis that lower income and minority communities are more risk from climate change for a number of reasons.

In the Hoosier life survey, this risk is actually reflected in how Hoosiers of color view climate changes compared to white users. So this represents the percentage of people of color and versus white people in the state that say that climate change will harm them personally a great deal.

And as you can see people of color in the state are nearly twice as likely to expect climate change to harm them a great deal. And given the research I mentioned them and others have mentioned, I expect this reflects actual differences rather than mere perceptions in their level of risk and their past experiences.

Other Hoosier Life Survey results actually point out to a shifting tide of public opinion in the state. They point to opportunity, and I believe that, in part, they speak to the fact that climate change education and outreach, like some of the work we heard in the introduction to today's work is actually having a very significant impact in Indiana.

So again, I'm graphing the percent here of people that believe humans are a primary cause of climate change. And across the bottom of the chart you see the age groups of Hoosiers getting older as we move across the screen. And what's clear is that the younger generation of Hoosiers is vastly more likely in between 18 and 25 year olds, the majority believe that humans play a primary causal role in climate change and I focus on this question.

Because it tends to be controversial amongst the public. But again, what we're seeing is a shifting tide of public opinion here, that the younger generation is more aware of the scientific perspective and as we've heard more likely to want to take action. So we're seeing some really good news from the Hoosier Life Survey as well.

Beyond just variation and how different types of futures we find to change the survey also points to how the Indiana public differs and often agrees, and their views and actions across the geographical and cultural boundaries within the state. So just today, we released data about specific metro areas across the state for which we have a sufficient number of responses to be fairly accurate and reliable about.

And across these areas you can see variations and public attitudes from the state average, as well as differences between each metro area. So one of the series of questions we asked users was if they were preparing their home for climate change? And just as an example, one of the practices we asked them about is if they were using rain gardens.

We see that among homeowners at the state level, on average 26% are using rain gardens. I think this certainly applies at the state level, this is something we need to work on. This can be a really important way to deal with the effects of, for instance, heavy rain events increasing in residential areas.

But our metro maps reveals that the percentage of Hoosiers across the state in various metro areas varies quite a bit. And we hope that by providing this type of information, it can help local organizations, local stakeholders shape their outreach, education and even policy agendas to better target the needs of those areas.

And I wanna end today because I've talked a lot about variation and differences. And I wanna say that there's also consensus that the Hoosier Life Survey reveals. We see really strong support for community level, climate policies, and programs. We asked about 20 different programs to deal with climate related risks, and said how much would you support these programs if they were to be implemented in your community.

And the average percent of Hoosier is expressing support somewhat or strong support for each program was nearly 70%. And even whenever we take into account partisan differences here, we see the majority of Hoosiers, regardless of their party, tend to support all of these programs. So this is a really clear message that Hoosiers are ready to take action on climate change even if the topic of climate change can still remain a bit contentious at times and state.

So in conclusion, everything we've tried to present today is intended to pique your interest. There's a ton that we can't cover here. And what I hope you'll do is that you'll continue to choose exploring our data, which is freely available. We actually have an opinion map that is somewhat similar to Yale's that you can explore.

We have a bunch of different levels of the state draft. And if you choose to keep exploring that I think what you'll see is that the Hoosier Life Survey offers unique insights into public opinions and behaviors related to climate change. And ultimately, I hope that it can be a tool for people that will inspire and support efforts to address climate change in Indiana and across Indiana cities.

And I just want to note, feel free to reach out with us, reach out to us with any questions. We're happy to answer and that's what we're here for. So I'll conclude by acknowledging the the vast number of people that contributed to the survey or our partners with the survey.

And I will send these links out in the chat room. Thank you so much.
>> In APA before you go there's one question maybe if you could try to answer quickly, which is how did the Indiana specific results align or differ from the Yale estimates?
>> I'm so prepared for that.

I'm gonna share my screen and again So we bring this up. Okay, as a cautious social scientist. I'm gonna put an asteris on all this and say that we did not design the survey to compare it to Yale. That's not our intention. And we probably shouldn't try to compare it to Yale.

That said, here's a slide where I'm obviously comparing it to Yale. We asked a number of questions that were very much similar to the ones they asked. We use the term climate change, where Yale uses the term global warming. And there'll be an effect of that term, communication research shows that conservatives or republicans react more strongly in a negative way to the term global warming and climate change.

So, again, that's why I'm saying that we shouldn't compare because there are multiple variables going on here. We would expect, though about a 10% difference in terms of attitudes based on that fact. And often what we're seeing what our questions are in red, Yale's responses from their most recent national survey or their most recent estimate, excuse me of Indiana are in blue.

And often what we see is that our responses vary by more than 10%. So it does suggest and to some degree that the predictions that Yale is making are a bit off compared to the results we get by asking actual Hoosiers. But again I'll conclude by saying, take this with a huge grain of salt.

HLS Reports

The HLS team is providing in-depth analysis on how Indiana residents perceive environmental changes, what actions Hoosiers are taking, and what policies and programs they support. View available reports below.

Hoosier Life Survey Summary Report     View text alternative of summary report

Hoosier Life Survey Politics Report         View text alternative of politics report

Hoosier Life Survey Metro Reports

Hoosier Life Survey 2.0 Report      View text alternative of HLS 2.0 report

Hoosier Life Survey Rural Report     View text alternative of HLS rural report