The Truth is Powerful

Communicating about climate change: What’s politics got to do with it?

In the United States, climate change is controversial, which makes communicating about the subject a tricky proposition.

A recent study by Portland State researchers Brianne Suldovsky, assistant professor of communication, and Daniel Taylor-Rodriguez, assistant professor of statistics, explored how liberals and conservatives in Oregon think about climate science to get a better sense for what communication strategies might be most effective at reaching people with different political ideologies. The study was published in Climatic Change in June.

Prior studies have shown that exposing climate change skeptics, who are more likely to be conservatives, to more science is unlikely to change the way they think about the issue. Instead, Suldovsky and Taylor-Rodriguez found that a more fruitful strategy may be to give conservatives opportunities to share their own lived experiences with the effects of climate change.

To learn more about how liberals and conservatives differ in how they think about climate change, Suldovksy and Taylor-Rodriguez created an online survey that was completed by 1,049 Oregonians. The participants ranged from age 18 to 86 and closely mirrored the demographics of the state in terms of sex, race, age and education. There was also ample representation from different political groups; 43% of participants were moderates, […]

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