The Impact of Message Valence on Climate Change Attitudes: A Longitudinal Experiment (2020)

Emily P. Diamond, Assistant Professor of Communication Studies and Marine Affairs

Public opinion is strongly influenced by media portrayals. As media coverage of climate change increases, it is ever more important to understand how media framing of the issue influences public perceptions, behaviors, and policy preferences. Communication researchers generally advise that positive messages communicating hope about an issue are more effective at motivating attitude and behavior change than negative fear-based appeals. However, as the seriousness and urgency of the threat has increased in recent years, media messaging on climate change has grown increasingly alarmist and negative. Using a longitudinal experimental design with repeated exposure to real climate change media articles, the findings of this study will have direct implications for both researchers, practitioners, and journalists. The analysis will measure both differences in attitudes within-subjects at the three different time points, as well as overall differences in attitude change between participants that received the positive and the negative valence messages.  SSIREP seed funds will enable Diamond to collect a pilot study to establish a proof of concept in preparation for a larger-scale study to understand the impact of media messages on climate change attitudes and policies.