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Influencing environmental attitudes: An experimental and meta-analytic examination of interventions

  • Author(s): Rode, Jacob Benjamin
  • Advisor(s): Ditto, Peter H
  • et al.
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Abstract

Despite increasing scientific evidence about climate change, the topic often fails to be prioritized in mainstream American politics. Yet the most impactful tools that the citizens of the U.S. have to mitigate the negative effects of climate change involve policies applied at both a nationwide and multinational level. Through three distinct empirical investigations, this dissertation examines ways to influence environmental and climate change attitudes, using both original experiments and meta-analysis.

The first set of studies focused on perceptions of fracking through three experiments. Participants were given a pro-fracking (conservative position) or anti-fracking (liberal position) article from Fox News (conservative source) or MSNBC (liberal source). Overall, participants who read an anti-fracking article tended to be less supportive of fracking than those who read a pro-fracking article. Contrary to hypotheses, the source of the article did not impact participants’ attitudes about the methods of the study or about fracking.

The next set of experiments investigated climate change attitudes specifically. Past research finds that providing people with the statement that 97% of climate scientists agree that climate change is human-caused is an effective way to convince people about climate change. To extend this research, the current studies provided participants with a news article about climate change and embedded a consensus statement at the end of some of the articles. Compared to those in a control condition, participants who read an article with consensus information had significantly higher perceptions of the scientific consensus, although there were mixed results for other climate change attitudes across the three studies. The studies provide evidence that consensus statements can still be effective even if they are embedded at the end of a news article.

The dissertation ends with a meta-analysis of experimental interventions on climate change attitudes. The meta-analysis located experimental studies with a control condition and examined the difference between treatment and control as a measure of effect size. The results show that interventions had a small, statistically significant positive effect on attitudes. Furthermore, interventions were less effective for policy attitudes than for belief in climate change. Unexpectedly, the type of intervention used was not a significant moderator of effect size. The findings indicate that attitudes towards policy are more resistant to change than other climate change attitudes, but also point to the limited effectiveness of interventions. The meta-analysis ends with a discussion of the implications and future directions.

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This item is under embargo until June 5, 2024.