Benegal, Salil D., PhD
Assistant Professor of Political Science
My work examines the public's understanding of scientific issues such as climate change and vaccines. In particular, I examine how perceptions of scientific consensus, objective facts, and uncertainty are affected by partisan biases, and how to best correct misperceptions or misinformation on these issues. My research has appeared in journals such as Climatic Change, Global Environmental Change, Environmental Politics, and Social Science & Medicine. My research has also been covered in avenues such as the Washington Post, NPR Michigan Radio, and the Sierra Club Magazine.
Benegal, Salil and Lyle Scruggs. 2018. “Correcting Misinformation About Climate Change: The Impact of Partisanship in an Experimental Setting.” Climatic Change 148(1): 61-80. http://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-018-2192-4
Misperceptions of the scientific consensus on climate change are an important problem in environmental policy. These misperceptions stem from a combination of ideological polarization and statements from prominent politicians who endorse information contradicting or misrepresenting the scientific consensus on climate change. Our study tests a source credibility theory of correction using different partisan sources of information in a survey experiment. We find that corrections from Republicans speaking against their partisan interest are most likely to persuade respondents to acknowledge and agree with the scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change. The extent of these effects vary by the partisanship of the recipient. Our results suggest that the partisan gap on climate change can be reduced by highlighting the views of elite Republicans who acknowledge the scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change.
Benegal, Salil. 2018. “The Spillover of Race and Racial Attitudes into Public Opinion about Climate Change.” Environmental Politics. https://doi.org/10.1080/09644016.2018.1457287
This study examines the relationship between racial attitudes and public opinion about climate change. Public opinion data from Pew and ANES surveys are used to show that racial identification and prejudices are increasingly correlated with climate change opinions during the Obama presidency. Results show that racial identification has become a significant predictor of climate change concern following Obama’s election in 2008, and that high levels of racial resentment are strongly correlated with reduced agreement with the scientific consensus on climate change today. These results offer evidence for an effect termed the spillover of racialization. This helps further explain why the public remains so polarized on climate change, given the extent to which racial grievances and identities have become entangled with elite communication about climate change and its related policies today.
I teach courses on Comparative Government, Environmental Policy, Political Psychology, and other topics in environmental politics at DePauw University. I am also involved with the Environmental Fellows Program at DePauw University, and am an affiliate of the Human Rights Institute at the University of Connecticut.
Prior to joining DePauw University, I earned a Ph.D. in Political Science at the University of Connecticut (2016). I also hold a M.A. in Economics from the University of Connecticut and a B.Sc in Chemistry from the Illinois Institute of Technology. More information about my research and teaching is available on my personal website.