SAFE Working Paper No. 414

Misperceived Social Norms and Willingness to Act Against Climate Change

We document the individual willingness to act against climate change and

study the role of social norms in a large sample of US adults. Individual beliefs about

social norms positively predict pro-climate donations, comparable in strength to universal

moral values and economic preferences such as patience and reciprocity. However, we

document systematic misperceptions of social norms. Respondents vastly underestimate

the prevalence of climate-friendly behaviors and norms. Correcting these misperceptions in

an experiment causally raises individual willingness to act against climate change as well

as individual support for climate policies. The effects are strongest for individuals who are

skeptical about the existence and threat of global warming.