It's How You Say It: Conservative Speak on Climate Change

Conservative Speak on Climate Change

A new study suggests that when messaging speaks to conservative ideals, Republicans show increased concern about global warming and the climate crisis. Using microtargeting, researchers pushed video ads from New Climate Voices, a group of conservatives advocating for climate action, on Facebook and Youtube in two "purple" districts in Missouri and Georgia. The campaign increased Republicans’ understanding of climate change by 13%. Matthew Goldberg, one of the study's co-authors, said if microtargeting is used "ethically and appropriately, we could see results like these and see some really positive results in moving people on this really important issue."

Why This Matters

Climate became more politicized than ever during the previous administration. As the New York Times stated:

For four years under President Donald J. Trump, even uttering the phrase "climate change" was verboten for many Republicans. His administration scrubbed the words from federal websites, tried to censor testimony to Congress and mocked the science linking rising fossil fuel emissions to a warming planet.

Time is ticking and the climate crisis needs bipartisanship sooner rather than later. This study indicates that ads using language and messengers appealing to conservatives are key in persuading them to care about climate change. For example, in one ad, WW0 enlistee and Former Representative Bob Inglis (R-SC) argues that climate action is compatible with Republican values: it's not about big government; it’s about wealth and job creation. After seeing this and other similar ads, conservatives became more likely to say: climate change is happening, it is caused by humans, and they would be personally affected by its impacts.

republicEn: Bon Inglis | 2021 - The Year Ahead, December 15, 2020.

WW0: Republicans For Change, February 4, 2021

Where to Next?

While the GOP has a long way to go, it wants to get there on its own terms. On June 23rd, Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) announced plans to start a Republican task force on climate change. That same day, John Curtis (R-UT) announced the Conservative Climate Caucus, formed to educate conservatives about global warming and develop policies to counter "radical progressive climate proposals." So far, 52 Republican House members have joined.

Due to climate skepticism among conservatives, progressives have largely led the way on climate change policy for decades. But Republicans want out of the passenger seat. As Curtis told the New York Times, "I fear that too often Republicans have simply said what they don't like without adding on 'but here's our ideas.'"

Deeper Dive

Read this Politico interview with John Curtis one of the founders of Conservative Climate Caucus.

Now This: How the GOP Has Changed on Climate Change, July 16, 2021.