Attitude on Climate Change

Posted by on Oct 4, 2012 in Cover Stories | 0 comments

Climate change is one of the most challenging environmental problems of the 21st century. This paper investigates how framing of climate change messages can influence public awareness and attitudes about climate change as well as willingness to lobby and advocate for climate policies while reducing one’s own carbon footprint. As part of our survey experiment, participants were assigned to view one of the three differently framed videos: personal framing, global framing, and facts-only. Using a pretest-posttest experimental design, we were able to measure cause-effect relationship of attitude change toward climate change. Consistent with the literature, our study supported the theory that personalizing climate change messages have an influence on public awareness and attitudes about global warming.

Graduate Student Researchers: Zeynep Altinay, Paige Brown, Francis Piccoli

Faculty Supervisor: Meghan Sanders

For a complete report, see: Altinay, Z., Brown, P., Piccoli, F. (2012, March). Responses to Environmental Issues: The Effects of Framing on Public Attitudes on Climate Change. In Joe Foote (Chair), Mass Communication & Society Division. AEJMC Midwinter Conference, Oklahoma.


Theoretical Framework

Elaboration Likelihood Model & Framing


Hypotheses & Research Questions

H1: A personal framing of the climate change issue (relating impacts on the individual) will improve participants’ (a) attitude towards climate change and (b) intentions to act, to a greater degree than will a global framing or facts only.

RQ1: How does a facts-only vs. a globally or a personally framed depiction of the climate change issue affect participants’ recall of information presented during an instructional video on climate change?

Graph of Intentions to Act (Behavioral Component of Attitude) Change vs. Video Frame Type (condition). There was a significant main effect for intentions to act (Wilks’ λ = .741, F(1, 51) = 17.861, p<0.01, partial η2 = .259) but a non-significant interaction effect for intentions*condition (Wilks’ λ = .930, F(2, 51) = 1.919,  p>0.05 (p=.157), partial η2 = .070). Asterisks indicate a significant difference in index from pretest to posttest for all individuals according to type of video viewed (p-values are noted).



Using the MEL participant pool, we recurited 55 respondents for our experiment. All participants completed a pretest that measured their their general awareness about environmental issues and demographic information. At least a week later, participants were exposed to a stimulus–three videos with three different framing scenarios. The treatment group received an intervention in the form of an instructional video on climate change: either a “global frame” or a “personal frame” video. The control group received a baseline treatment: a video containing only facts on climate change, with minimal framing, i.e. a “facts-only” video. Performing a pretest-posttest experimental design, we measured their awareness of climate change, attitude (cognitive/affective) toward climate change, intentions to act (behavioral attitude) on climate change, and recall of information before and after intervention.

Study Findings/ Results

H1:Partially supported. A personal framing of the climate change issue, which focused on local impacts, improved participants’ attitude and intentions to act more than global framing

RQ1: A facts-only depiction of the climate change issue improved participants’ recall of facts to a greater extent than framed information



Personal testimonials are more likely to facilitate behavior change among individuals, and increase public awareness about climate change. Audience, which can identify itself with the negative impacts of climate change, will be more likely to lobby and advocate policies to stop global warming. Mass media campaigns, educators, and community organizations can incorporate personal framing to mobilize public opinion to establish sound climate change mitigation policies. Involvement of peer educators and community organizations can facilitate behavior change, which can then lead to lobbying and advocating for establishing sound environmental policies.


Contact Meghan Sanders at, or by phone at (225) 578-7380, for more information about this study.