If They Like You, They Learn from You: How a Brief Weathercaster-Delivered Climate Education Segment Is Moderated by Viewer Evaluations of the Weathercaster
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Local television (TV) weathercasters are a potentially promising source of climate education, in that weather is the primary reason viewers watch local TV news, large segments of the public trust TV weathercasters as a source of information about global warming, and extreme weather events are increasingly common (Leiserowitz et al.; U.S. Global Change Research Program). In an online experiment conducted in two South Carolina cities (Greenville, n = 394; Columbia, n = 352) during and immediately after a summer heat wave, the effects on global warming risk perceptions were examined following exposure to a TV weathercast in which a weathercaster explained the heat wave as a local manifestation of global warming versus exposure to a 72-h forecast of extreme heat. No main effect of the global warming video on learning was found. However, a significant interaction effect was found: subjects who evaluated the TV weathercaster more positively were positively influenced by the global warming video, and viewers who evaluated the weathercaster less positively were negatively influenced by the video. This effect was strongest among politically conservative viewers. These results suggest that weathercaster-delivered climate change education can have positive, albeit nuanced, effects on TV-viewing audiences.