Singh and SPIA Student Collaborate on How Issue Framing Affects Beliefs about Climate Change Policy across Ideological and Partisan Groups

By Marli Collier

Dr. Shane Singh, an associate professor in the Department of International Affairs, has published a paper analyzing how issue framing shapes beliefs about the importance of climate change policy. However, this paper has origins with a SPIA student. “[The paper] was actually the idea of one of our AB/MA students, Meili Swanson, the other author. She was a junior at the time, taking my Masters in International Policy Research Methods class, and this idea was in her final paper for the class,” explains Singh. “She had come up with this interesting idea and experimental design, but she needed some funding and support with the quantitative analysis, so I asked if she wanted to work on it together.”

Using Amazon’s MTurk technology, Singh and Swanson recruited American adults to answer questions about their beliefs on climate change policy after being randomly assigned paragraph-long informational stories that framed climate change as a national security issue, a human rights issue or an environmental issue.

Singh and Swanson conclude that issue framing does not affect overall opinion of climate change policy—that is, when ideology partisan affiliation are not taken into account, issue framing has no clear effects. However, one of the more interesting conclusions of the paper shows Republicans who are exposed to sourced issue frames end up feeling that climate change is actually less important as a policy issue. Singh says, “I guess it’s not too shocking in today’s political climate, but I was surprised to see that when people on the Right are given information about the potentially damaging effects of climate change, they actually begin to see climate change as less important. It’s a backfire effect.”

Analyzing climate change opinion was a new endeavor for Singh, but he says this paper works well with his usual research. “In a way, this is a diversion from my research as a whole. I’ve never done anything on climate change; that was Meili’s interest. But it’s related to my research in that it examines how one’s partisan affiliation can shape his or her opinions and political behavior.”

You can read Singh and Swanson’s paper here.

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