How to Frame Climate Change to the Tea Party?

by Shannon Arvizu on September 9, 2011 · 0 comments

in Framing in the Field

While this may come as not much of a surprise, a new study by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication finds that the 12% of voters who identify as members of the Tea Party mostly dismiss global warming.

The report entitled,  ”Politics & Global Warming: Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and the Tea Party,” reports how members of each political party respond to the issue of global warming. Some of the highlights of the report include:

  • Majorities of Democrats (78%), Independents (71%) and Republicans (53%) believe that global warming is happening. By contrast, only 34 percent of Tea Party members believe global warming is happening.
  • While 62 percent of Democrats say that global warming is caused mostly by human activities, most Tea Party members say it is either naturally caused (50%) or isn’t happening at all (21%).
  • Tea Party members are much more likely to say that they are “very well informed” about global warming than the other groups. Likewise, they are also much more likely to say they “do not need any more information” about global warming to make up their mind.

How should climate change advocates interpret the information of this report? Is there a way to more effectively build support for climate change solutions among the minority of voters who identify as Tea Party members and climate skeptics?

The FrameWorks Institute is working with advocates and aquarium interpreters on how to reframe climate change to build a stronger base of public support for solutions. To build support among climate change deniers, it is important to start the conversation by invoking the values that these groups embody. By starting the conversation with a commonly-held value (rather than unframed information), advocates can gain more communicative traction on this issue.
Prosperity: Tea Party members value economic prosperity. A recent Nature article about organizations that promote climate skepticism, such as the Heartland Institute, shows that skeptics are most often concerned about the economic costs of implementing climate change solutions. By talking about clean technology solutions to climate change in a way that illustrates the benefits to our domestic economy, advocates can more effectively engage these groups in a constructive assessment of the situation.
Stewardship: Framing global warming in terms of stewardship for future generations can also be an effective reframing approach. The Yale report mentions that Tea Party members are more likely to be evangelical Christian, and thus, integrating values of Christian stewardship for the planet and for future generations can be a stronger starting point that can lead to productive conversations on climate change solutions.
Solutions: What is interesting about this report is that the majority of all four parties expressed support for specific climate solutions, such as research funding for renewable energy and providing tax rebates for purchases of solar panels and energy efficient vehicles. Rather than frame the conversation around “whether” global warming is real, what this study illustrates is that focusing on pragmatic solutions in our communications can be a much better approach to engage these groups.
What other examples of reframing climate change to skeptics have you seen? What other communication strategies may prove more effective in engaging Tea Party members on this issue? 

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