With over 175 million Americans visiting each year and the ability to create unique learning experiences, informal science institutions may play a greater role in climate change education in the coming years. As facilities in Oregon begin to incorporate climate science and solutions into their educational programming, effective communication across diverse audiences can be challenging. Based on a nationwide study conducted by researchers at Yale and George Mason Universities, this project examined visitor perceptions of climate change across six previously identified audience segments. Research took place at the Oregon Zoo in Portland, and both the Oregon Coast Aquarium and Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport. Segment types were found utilizing a condensed version of the national survey and provided statistical algorithm. Participant distributions among the segment types were compared across sites and with the national data to provide a better understanding of the unique beliefs, concerns, and priorities of each audience.
The results of the survey indicated that a large majority of the 300 visitors who participated across all three sites fell into the two segments that held the highest degree of concern, interest and worry regarding climate change and were most likely to take action in their daily lives. This was a significantly larger percentage than the data from the national study. These findings suggest that informal educators at the three sites may benefit from understanding the attitudes and needs held by these audiences in particular. One reason for this high level of concern compared to the general American public may be due to the increased level of educational attainment among visitors at the sites. Differences in education across segment types were found to be significant, with the most alarmed visitors having a more extensive educational background than the unconcerned. Finally, it is apparent that even though the high level of concern among the sites is encouraging for educators who hope to inspire action-oriented behaviors, the audiences still vary widely in their attitudes toward climate change. Recommendations for engaging each audience are provided in this report.
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