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The Politicization of Climate Science: Media Consumption, Perceptions of Science and Scientists, and Support for Policy

Cover of Journal of Health CommunicationAbstract

Differential media treatment of climate change, including conservative media’s tendency to reject the anthropogenic climate change scientific consensus, has reinforced polarized perceptions of climate change. Studies have found differences in coverage patterns and in perceptions among those relying more heavily on conservative rather than liberal or moderate media. This scholarship has been limited by narrow measurements of media exposure, climate-related outcomes, and the mechanism of effects. We analyzed nationally representative US data (N = 1,181) using measures that included not only reported use of mainstream print, cable, and social media captured in past research, but also science programming, as well as far-right, alternative-health, and Christian media. On average, participants relied more heavily on centrist and liberal media, followed by Fox News and social media. The results corroborate findings associating exposure to centrist media with pro-climate attitudes, and conservative media, including Fox News with the opposite views. Use of far-right outlets was associated with the lowest levels of belief in anthropogenic climate change, perceptions of personal threat, and support for climate-friendly policy. Reliance on science media was associated with pro-climate views. Most associations were mediated via perceptions of science and scientists (using the Factors Associated with Self-Presentation of Science, FASS scale).