Evidence for three distinct climate change audience segments with varying belief-updating tendencies: implications for climate change communication

Matthew Andreotta, Fabio Boschetti, Simon Farrell, Cécile Paris, Iain Walker, Mark Hurlstone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Mounting evidence suggests members of the general public are not homogeneous in their receptivity to climate science information. Studies segmenting climate change views typically deploy a top-down approach, whereby concepts salient in scientific literature determine the number and nature of segments. In contrast, in two studies using Australian citizens, we used a bottom-up approach, in which segments were determined from perceptions of climate change concepts derived from citizen social media discourse. In Study 1, we identified three segments of the Australian public (Acceptors, Fencesitters, and Sceptics) and their psychological characteristics. We find segments differ in climate change concern and scepticism, mental models of climate, political ideology, and worldviews. In Study 2, we examined whether reception to scientific information differed across segments using a belief-updating task. Participants reported their beliefs concerning the causes of climate change, the likelihood climate change will have specific impacts, and the effectiveness of Australia’s mitigation policy. Next, participants were provided with the actual scientific estimates for each event and asked to provide new estimates. We find significant heterogeneity in the belief-updating tendencies of the three segments that can be understood with reference to their different psychological characteristics. Our results suggest tailored scientific communications informed by the psychological profiles of different segments may be more effective than a “one-size-fits-all” approach. Using our novel audience segmentation analysis, we provide some practical suggestions regarding how communication strategies can be improved by accounting for segments’ characteristics.

Original languageEnglish
Article number32
Number of pages29
JournalClimatic Change
Volume174
Issue number3-4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2022

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