A new approach for evaluating climate change communication
Many scholars study when climate change communication increases citizen engagement. Yet, past work has largely used public opinion-based measures of engagement to evaluate alternative frames. In this paper, we argue for a new approach to evaluation, which is premised on research on the policy-making process showing that space on the political agenda and, ultimately, policy change are more likely to arise in response to changes in both public opinion and collective political action. Thus, we argue that alternative frames should be evaluated based on their consequences for both. This is especially critical given that frames can have divergent effects on attitudes and behavior. Using a combination of field and survey experiments, we apply our approach to evaluate two frames related to climate change risks. We find that they heighten people’s concern about climate change yet decrease their rate of political action to express that concern. Our results suggest caution with regard to these frames in particular and that, more generally, frames that might seem advantageous when examining public opinion may not be when political behavior is analyzed.