When can Non-climate Frames Generate Public Support for Climate Policy?
Walker, Benjamin James Andrew
Date: 26 August 2014
University of Exeter
PhD in Politics
This PhD uses a series of large experimental studies to examine if, and when, framing climate policy in terms of its non-climate benefits can lead to greater levels of public support, compared to the use of climate change frames. The findings within this thesis provide a number of key original contributions to knowledge. First, it is ...
This PhD uses a series of large experimental studies to examine if, and when, framing climate policy in terms of its non-climate benefits can lead to greater levels of public support, compared to the use of climate change frames. The findings within this thesis provide a number of key original contributions to knowledge. First, it is demonstrated that framing climate policy around its non-climate benefits can significantly enhance levels of public policy support. For example, Chapter 3 found that participants exposed to public health prioritising framing conditions of policies to reduce car use had significantly higher levels of support compared to participants that were exposed to climate change prioritising frames. Chapter 3 also tested whether climate change sceptics are likely to have higher levels of support for climate policies when non-climate frames are used (as opposed to climate change frames) but its results were inconclusive. It is unfounded to assume that non-climate frames will always lead to greater support for climate policy compared to the use of climate change frames. Indeed, a second key original contribution of the research in this thesis is the identification of factors that can determine the ability of non-climate frames to generate public support for climate policy. As one example, Chapter 4 demonstrates that frame relevance is one key factor that can define the relative ‘effectiveness’ of non-climate and climate change frames. Chapter 5 did not find evidence that non-climate frames can increase support for climate policy by shaping participant’s perceptions of personal benefit that they believe they will get from a policy. Instead some non-climate frames will likely offer the opportunity to increase support for climate policy in ways that are more subtle, such as by influencing public perceptions of distributive justice, as shown in Chapter 6. Overall, this thesis demonstrates both the opportunities, but also threats, associated with the use of non-climate frames when communicating climate policy. Based on these findings, there is now a clear need for researchers to progress beyond looking at whether non-climate frames can be effective in stimulating support for decarbonisation action, to instead take a deeper look at when and why these frames will be effective.
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