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Framing clean energy campaigns to promote civic engagement among parents

  • Author(s): Hanus, N;
  • Wong-Parodi, G;
  • Hoyos, L;
  • Rauch, M
  • et al.
Abstract

Civic engagement is one important way citizens can influence the rate of decarbonization in the electricity sector. However, motivating engagement can be challenging even if people are affected and interested in participating. Here we employed a randomized controlled trial to assess the effect of clean energy campaigns emphasizing cost savings, health, climate, or health and climate, or no additional information at all (control) on civic engagement behaviors (signing a petition or making a phone call). We targeted parents as they have been shown to be powerful agents of political and business practice change in other contexts, and hence, could play an important role in the decarbonization of the electricity sector. In Study 1, we recruited n = 292 parents already engaged in climate advocacy; in Study 2, we recruited a representative sample of n = 1254 parents drawn from the general public. Both studies were conducted in Michigan, Florida, and California, as these states have sizable advocacy group membership, divergent energy profiles, and strategic importance to the climate movement. In both studies, we find the odds of taking action are reduced by over 90% when participants are asked to make a phone call and leave a voicemail message, versus signing an online petition. Among the parents already engaged in advocacy, we observe a ceiling effect regarding attitudes towards clean energy and find the cost campaign produces unintended consequences. Among our public sample, we find that participants who believe the campaign to be credible and comprehendible are more likely to take action than those who discredit the campaign or do not understand its message. Additionally, we find parents who have children under the age of 18 negatively adjust their attitudes towards fossil fuels after being presented with health information. Ultimately, we find that campaign messages can influence energy attitudes and parents are willing to take action on the topic if the advocacy action seems like an effective approach.

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