How to Dramatically Increase Support for Climate Solutions
We feature a lot of polls on this blog – they provide valuable insights into public opinions about climate change. But it’s important to remember that poll results can vary, even when the polls cover similar topics. The reason? How a person answers a question depends a lot on how the question is phrased.
As a recent E&E article explained, people are generally supportive when climate solutions are framed in terms of government action. But when the poll attaches a personal cost to the initiative, the degree of support drops substantially.
Our own research has found that people tend to seek out information that aligns with their existing beliefs, and reject information that contradicts their beliefs. The information may be basically the same, but it will resonate differently depending on how it’s presented.
Principle #1 of our new climate communication guide is “Put Yourself in Your Audience’s Shoes.” Here’s how to tailor your message so it’s more meaningful:
• Understand the values held by your audience, and show how climate solutions appeal to those values. For example, someone who values prosperity might respond well to a message about the economic benefits of clean energy.
• Tailor your message to the worldviews held by your audience. If they are strongly community-minded, you might focus on how climate solutions can promote equality by improving the lives of poorer citizens.
• Choose the right messenger for your audience. People respond best to a messenger they trust and respect, and whose values and identities are similar to their own.
• Know which moral foundations (such as liberty, fairness, or loyalty) will resonate best with your audience, and use those themes to frame your message.
For more messaging tips, download the full report: Connecting on Climate: A Guide to Effective Climate Change Communication.
Scott Detrow, E&E reporter
When Washington Gov. Jay Inslee unveiled a new cap-and-trade proposal last week, both business and environmental interest groups were quick to distribute polls that either boosted or shot down the Democrat’s effort to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
Voters would reject anything that leads to higher energy and transportation costs, industry warned. Not so, countered green groups, arguing that Washington residents are worried about climate change and are ready to take action.
There’s a good chance both are right. The popularity of any government initiative – but especially a complex proposal like issuing permits for greenhouse gas emissions and using the revenue to fund a wide range of government projects – is incredibly subjective. And, experts note, poll results will differ widely based on the way questions are asked.
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