New Research: How to Move Americans on Climate

01.17.14 GMUSurvey_Orig2Poll results just released by the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University and the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication reveal a host of new findings about Americans’ climate attitudes and beliefs. While these findings provide valuable information to policymakers and advocates about where America is on climate, they can also guide how communicators and advocates engage people around climate.
 
Perhaps unsurprisingly, most Americans continue to see global warming as a relatively distant threat that won’t cause much harm to them personally. And more and more Americans are saying they don’t need any more information to form a firm opinion about climate change. However, three in 10 Americans say that they could easily change their mind about the issue. Here’s what the poll results suggest about how to move them:
 
1. Focus on what actions people can take in their own lives. More than two thirds of Americans say most people don’t know enough about what they can do to reduce climate change. Help remedy this problem by providing tips on tangible ways for individuals to take action.
 
2. Make climate emotional. Fewer than half of Americans strongly or moderately feel any of the emotions about climate asked about in the survey, which suggests a low degree of engagement on the issue. Making climate change into a moral and emotional issue can help get more people on board.
 
3. Avoid inundating people with more facts and science. A growing number of Americans say they do not need more information about climate change. Lead with solutions and emotions instead.
 
4. Emphasize climate change’s impact on children and future generations. While only 38 percent of Americans believe they will harmed a “moderate amount” or a “great deal” by climate change, 65 percent believe climate change will harm future generations. Harness this intergenerational concern to inspire action.
 
These tips represent just a partial list of recommendations about how to talk to Americans on climate. For a more comprehensive set of research-based tips (many of which overlap with the tips above), please see MomentUs‘s recent 8-page communications guide: Communicating on Climate: 13 Steps and Guiding Principles.

Download the polling report (Climate Change in the American Mind: Americans’ Global Warming Beliefs and Attitudes in November 2013) here.

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