We examine how attention to science and political news may influence public knowledge, perceived harm, and support for climate mitigation policies. Previous research examining these relationships has not fully accounted for how political ideology shapes the mental processes through which the public interprets media discourses about climate change. We incorporate political ideology and the concept of motivated cognition into our analysis to compare and contrast two prominent models of opinion formation, the scientific literacy model, which posits that disseminating scientific information will move public opinion towards the scientific consensus, and the motivated reasoning model, which posits that individuals will interpret information in a biased manner. Our analysis finds support for both models of opinion formation with key differences across ideological groups. Attention to science news was associated with greater perceptions of harm and knowledge for conservatives, but only additional knowledge for liberals. Supporting the literacy model, greater knowledge was associated with more support for climate mitigation for liberals. In contrast, consistent with motivated reasoning, more knowledgeable conservatives were less supportive of mitigation policy. In addition, attention to political news had a negative association with perceived harm for conservatives but not for liberals.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
- Social Sciences (miscellaneous)