ARTICLE: Framing of climate change news has only limited effects to selective exposure

Picture: Polar bear by Andy Brunner, license CC0 1.0

Framing of the stories plays only a limited role in driving exposure to climate change news, a new study finds. Lauren Feldman of Rutgers University and P. Sol Hart of the University of Michigan, conducted two news browsing experiments, testing six different climate change frames.

The experiments were done with national samples of adults in the United States (about 2 000 participants in total), and they compared the effects between different political leanings. The frames emphasized either public health, the economy, national security, the environment, morality or political conflict. In the first experiment, participants saw only climate change articles. In the second test, climate change news competed for attention with other news topics.

A focus on human health risks can increase exposure to climate change related to other frames, the results show.

However, the changes were only evident with liberal-Democrat participants. In the first study, also moderate-Independent leaning participants were affected by this frame. In the first study, conflict stories also generated higher levels of exposure than economic and morality-framed ones.

Conservatives were generally unaffected by framing. This finding could be explained by cognitive dissonance or resentment towards news that link climate change to issues they care about, such as national security, the authors ponder.

Existing opinions on climate change seem to override the framing in people’s selection of the news, Feldman and Hart find. They note that framing only works as a persuasive strategy if people pay attention to the message in the first place.

The article “Broadening Exposure to Climate Change News?” was published in the Journal of Communication and is available on the publisher’s website (abstract free).

Picture: Polar bear by Andy Brunner, license CC0 1.0

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