A Public Health Frame Arouses Hopeful Emotions about Climate Change

This article examines how emotional reactions about climate change differ depending on whether audiences perceive the issue as an environmental problem, a public health problem, or as a matter of national security.

An online survey was conducted in December 2010 using a nationally representative sample of 1,127 U.S. residents. This study examines emotional reactions in six audience segments. Referred to as: “Global Warming’s Six Americans” each segment perceives climate change to varying degrees: Alarmed, Concerned, Cautious, Disengaged, Doubtful, or Dismissive. Participants in the study were randomly assigned to read one of three articles framed to emphasize climate change as an environmental problem, a public health problem, or a national security problem. Participants indicated which parts of the approximately 600-word article made them feel hopeful or angry.

Key Findings:

  • Depicting climate change as an issue of public health was the most likely to generate feelings of hope and the least likely to generate feelings of anger.
  • Framing the issue as a matter of national security may cause a boomerang effect among those that are already Doubtful or Dismissive of the issue by generating unintended anger.

Framing climate change as an issue of public health inspired hopeful emotions more so than an issue of environmental risk or a national security issue.

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