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Messages that speak to conservatives' morals narrow partisan gap on environment
Date:12/10/2012

Public opinion on environmental issues such as climate change, deforestation, and toxic waste seems to fall along increasingly partisan lines. But new research suggests that environmental messages framed in terms of conservative morals describing environmental stewardship in terms of fending off threats to the "purity" and "sanctity" of Earth and our bodies may help to narrow the partisan gap.

A study from researchers at UC Berkeley has found that while people who identified themselves as conservatives tend to be less concerned about the environment than their liberal counterparts, their motivation increased significantly when they read articles that stressed the need to "protect the purity of the environment" and were shown such repellant images as a person drinking dirty water, a forest filled with garbage, and a city under a cloud of smog.

Published this week in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, the findings indicate that reframing pro- environmental rhetoric according to values that resonate strongly with conservatives can reduce partisan polarization on ecological matters.

"These findings offer the prospect of pro-environmental persuasion across party lines," said study co-author Robb Willer of UC Berkeley. "Reaching out to conservatives in a respectful and persuasive way is critical, because large numbers of Americans will need to support significant environment reforms if we are going to deal effectively with climate change, in particular."

Researchers conducted a content analysis of more than 200 op-eds published in such newspapers as The New York Times, USA Today and The Wall Street Journal, and found the pro-environmental arguments were most often pitched in terms of moral obligations to care about the natural environment and protect it from harm, a theme that resonates more powerfully with liberals, they added, than with conservatives.

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Contact: Anna Mikulak
amikulak@psychologicalscience.org
202-293-9300
Association for Psychological Science
Source:Eurekalert

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