US research: different communications may encourage conservatives to care more about the environment

A study published this week in the peer-reviewed journal Psychological Science suggests that conservatives are more likely to express support for the environment, and to implement environmental initiatives in their own lives, if care for the earth is presented as an issue of purity, patriotism and reverence for a higher authority. Liberals are more likely to respond positively when environment is presented as a moral issue.

The researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, undertook and report on several interlinked experiments. The key experiment took place with a group of 308 randomly selected men and women. Overall, the study found that the purity-themed message inspired conservatives to feel higher levels of disgust, which in turn increased their support for protecting the environment. The study also found that most pro-environmental messages leaned strongly toward liberal moral concerns and hence were often not attractive to conservatives.

While research on this topic is still in early stages, publication of this article may inspire environmentalists and environmental communicators, including advertisers, to reframe messages in a way that is more inclusive of individuals across the spectrum of social values.

Different abstracts of the article are available at no charge at http://newscenter.berkeley.edu/2012/12/10/conservatives-environment/ and http://pss.sagepub.com/content/early/2012/12/05/0956797612449177.abstract . The latter also provides a fee-based opportunity to purchase the full article.

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