Moving Conservatives on Climate

June 23, 2021

I’m doing a lot of work in rural areas, mostly in Michigan, which are heavily red.
I can tell you that climate is not the winning issue in discussions about clean energy, but that it is always, at least, in the room, and becoming more so.

The Climate Comms group at Yale University has been working on new persuasive avenues, and they have some numbers.

Yale Program on Climate Communication:

Enacting ambitious and durable climate policy will likely require bipartisan support. Although our research shows that Democrats increasingly think climate change should be a high priority for the president and Congress, issue priority has remained stagnant among Republicans. Increasing Republicans’ understanding of the existence, causes, and harms of climate change is a foundation on which to build bipartisan climate policy support.

In support of Fenton Communications and other partner organizations, we helped develop New Climate Voices—a campaign designed to convince Republicans that climate change is happening, human-caused, and harmful. The campaign involved one month (July 19–August 20, 2019) of targeted video and banner advertising delivered to conservatives in two competitive congressional districts: Missouri-02 and Georgia-07. Advertisements were displayed on YouTube, Facebook, and on websites across the Internet.

The advertisements featured messengers and content that were expected to be effective with this audience. In one video, Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist and evangelical Christian, speaks about the connection between her Christian faith and climate change. In another video, Air Force General Ron Keys explains that climate change poses a national security threat and creates challenges for the U.S. military. In another, former U.S. Congressman Bob Inglis (R–SC) describes how his conservative values inspire his drive for climate action.

The campaign had large positive effects on the climate change beliefs and attitudes of Republicans in the two congressional districts. Relative to control groups that did not receive the advertising, the treated groups exhibited a seven percentage point increase in belief that global warming is happening, a 10 point increase in understanding that global warming is human-caused, an 11 point increase in global warming issue importance, a 13 point increase in worry about global warming, a 12 point increase in perceptions of personal harm, and a 16 point increase in perceptions of harm to future generations.

As the sample ads on this page show, 2 key components are trusted messengers, who appeal to common concerns among conservatives – in this case, Christian faith, and National Security.

Over the years, Katharine Hayhoe has been a most valuable player in terms of messaging to conservatives. She appeared in my video on the moral consequences of climate change, a few years ago.

One key voice in this trial was Jerry Taylor, formerly a climate-skeptic spokesman for the Cato Institute, who realized a few years ago he had been lied to, and has become a prominent climate voice among conservatives.
He’s among the subjects of the “New Climate Voices” campaign, and I profiled him a few years ago.


3 Responses to “Moving Conservatives on Climate”

  1. redskylite Says:

    It seems professional, devious industrial interests have made climate change a highly political issue, as there is no obvious other reason for the conservative party’s stance. The generational divide on the issue appears even stronger than the political divide, though and the Republican party must change quickly or risk being buried forever in the mid to later century.

    “On social media, Gen Z and Millennial adults interact more with climate change content than older generations:-

    Gen Zers and Millennials express intense emotional reactions to seeing climate change content on social platforms compared with older generations.”


    “Children shouldn’t have to have this worry – they have their hopes and dreams, they want to look forward to a bright future but what’s coming at them is about how there isn’t much time left.”

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