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Economic losses or environmental gains? Framing effects on public support for environmental management.

Abstract

Environmental managers face major challenges related to project implementation and communicating the significance of those projects to the public. Effective communication can mitigate public opposition or increase support for specific projects and increase public and political support for environmental management more generally. In this study, we evaluate which types of benefits or losses environmental managers should communicate and how to frame those attributes to achieve greater public support. To do so, we field a survey experiment that presents the benefits of an invasive species management project, utilizing a two (economic, ecological) by two (gain, loss) factorial design as well as a control message. Ecological messages lead to significantly more support for invasive species management than economic messages, and loss frames are more effective than gain frames. We also find that treatment responses differ across several covariates including political ideology and environmentalism. These results indicate that the public is more concerned with managing invasive species for intrinsic environmental worth than economic benefit and that preventing further environmental degradation is more motivating than promoting additional environmental gains.

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