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Global Warming’s Six Americas: book chapter preview

We are pleased to offer an adapted version of our chapter in a terrific forthcoming book edited by Anders Hanson and Robbie Cox: Handbook of Environment and Communication (Routledge, December 2014).

Abstract: Global climate change – a threat of potentially unprecedented magnitude – is viewed from a variety of perspectives by Americans, with some dismissing the danger, some entirely unaware of its significance, and still others highly concerned and motivated to take action.  Understanding the sources of these diverse perspectives is key to effective audience engagement: Messages that ignore the cultural and political underpinnings of people's views on climate change are less likely to succeed. 

In this chapter, we describe Global Warming's Six Americas – six unique audience segments that view and respond to the issue in distinct ways.  We describe the beliefs and characteristics of each group and discuss methods of effectively communicating with them in light of:  (1) the pro- or counter-attitudinal nature of messages on the issue for each group; (2) their willingness to exert the cognitive effort necessary to process information on the issue; (3) their propensity for counter-arguing, motivated reasoning and message distortion; and (4) the communication content they say they most desire and, hence, would be most likely to process and accept.

Topics | Six Americas