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Believing in “global warming” versus “climate change”: Exploring the psychological mechanisms of a framing effect

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Principal Investigator(s):

Jonathon Schuldt
Cornell University
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Sample size: 2040
Field period: 07/06/2012-09/13/2012


H1. That the partisan divide on climate change existence beliefs would be wider when the phenomenon was worded in terms of "global warming" than in terms of "climate change.

H2. That this effect would interact with self-affirmation, such that the tendency for Republicans to report less belief under the "global warming" frame would be attenuated following the self-affirmation procedure.

H3. That respondents would perceive less scientific consensus surrounding "global warming" than "climate change."

H4. That respondents would report weaker support for CO2 regulation under the "global warming" than under the "climate change" frame.

Experimental Manipulations:

In total, there were three experimental manipulations: 1) Respondents completed a self-affirmation task or a control task before answering all questions related to climate change. 2) Respondents saw the main outcome questions worded in terms of "global warming" or "climate change," depending on condition. 3) Finally, the order of the scientific consensus and policy preference items were manipulated, such that half of the respondents completed the scientific consensus question first and half completed the policy question first.

Key Dependent Variables:

The main outcome variables were climate change existence belief, perception of the scientific consensus, and policy preference regarding limiting CO2 emissions.

Summary of Findings:

As predicted, we observed stronger existence beliefs under the "global warming" frame than under the "climate change" frame (H1). However, this effect was not attenuated by the self-affirmation manipulation (H2). We also observed that perceived scientific consensus for "global warming" was lower than for "climate change" (H3). Finally, while there was no overall effect of "global warming"/"climate change" framing on policy preference, further analysis revealed an interaction between framing, politics, and question order.


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