Mississippi Rising: How Residents Of The River Basin Feel About Climate And The Media

The Mississippi River basin, an area that extends from Canada to the deep South, comprising 40% of the Continental U.S., is home to strong views on climate and media reporting on it, according to research conducted by the Missouri School of Journalism at the University of Missouri in 2022 and released this week. 

Of the residents polled in 10 states, 69.2% believe that climate change is real, and 53.4% say human activities are the primary cause.

Moreover, 69.3% pay at least some attention to environmental issues while 52.7% feel the environment in is important to them personally. 

Still, those numbers are below the attention levels paid to politics (73.8%) and local and state affairs (76.9%). And there are limits to the personal responsibility assumed by the respondents.

Only 23.9% feel they are moderately or greatly responsible for the environmental issues impacting their region, the study says. And 50.5% say society as a whole is moderately or greatly responsible. Worse, 18.5% feel no responsibility whatever. 



Of the respondents, 46.1% turn to local television at least once per week for news about agriculture and the environment, while 40.4% rely on traditional national news networks. 

In addition, 38.2% use social media platforms for this purpose, but 33.6% never do. 

The most trusted source of environmental information is friends and family, with 82.1% trusting them at least somewhat.

Trust in news organizations varies with the locale. Overall, 10.5% do not trust local media at all, while 17.8% mostly do not trust it. However, 42.4% somewhat trust them, 22.9% mostly trust them and 6% trust them very much.

In rural areas, 12.7% lack any trust whatever and 18.2% mostly do not trust the media. But 41.15% somewhat trust them, 22.2% mostly and 5.4% very much. 

Urban dwellers are more likely to express trust—only 7.9% do not trust local media at all and 9.2% trust them very much. 

The numbers are different for national traditional media organizations. 

Overall, 17.2% do not trust them at all, and 22.9% mostly do not trust them. But 37.7% trust them somewhat, 17% mostly and 5.2% very much. 

However, 21.4% of rural residents totally do not trust them and 22.6% not very much. Only 15.4% mostly trust them, and 4.2% very much.  

In contrast, 37.4% of Urban denizens somewhat trust national media, 19.7% mostly and 8.7% very much.  

Suburbanites are less trusting than those in urban areas, with only 3.5% trusting national media very much and 16.8% mostly. 

The residents assign a great deal of responsibility for regional environmental issues to these entities:

  • Society as a whole—24.9%
  • Federal government—20.3%
  • State government—18.1%
  • People in your state—16.7%
  • Local government—15%
  • Non-agricultural industry—13.5%
  • Agricultural sector—12.%

How willing are people to take actions to support the environment? They say they are willing or extremely likely to:

  • Change my personal behaviors, such as recycling more or driving less—48.3%
  • Seek more information about environmental issues—40.5%
  • Support local environmental initiatives—37.8%
  • Vote for pro-environmental action candidates—36.8%
  • Support federal environmental initiatives—34.4%
  • Pay more money for sustainably grown foods—25.1%
  • Pay higher taxes to support environmental actions or initiatives—18.7%

The research team surveyed 2,305 residents of Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Tennessee and Wisconsin in August 2022. 


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