Cultural   Media Effects  

Expanding the Theory of Planned Behavior: Implications for Media Use, Race/Ethnicity, and Pro-Environmental Intentions

Research has generally shown that use of liberal and non-partisan news outlets tends to be associated with people being concerned about the issue of climate change. By contrast, use of conservative leaning outlets tends to be associated with questioning the existence of climate change.

But, two areas of interest in how different media outlets affect the public have remained underdeveloped. First, scholars have spent less time examining whether the content of different media outlets could influence people’s behaviors regarding climate change. Second, few studies have examined whether the relationships between use of different media outlets and beliefs regarding climate change differ based on a person’s race and ethnicity.

University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications Public Relations Assistant Professor Jay Hmielowski and Troy Elias at the University of Oregon attempted to address these two questions. First, their findings suggest that use of liberal and non-partisan media lead people to report a willingness to address the issue of climate change. By contrast, using conservative media outlets like Fox News was associated with people being less willing to change their behaviors to address the issue of climate change.

Their study found that people’s attitudes regarding the issue of climate change played an important role in their willingness to take action to address this issue. That is, their study found that media use was associated with changes in attitudes, which then led people to be more (or less) willing to act regarding the issue of climate change.

Second, their study examined whether these relationships between news use and climate change attitudes and beliefs differed across racial/ethnic groups. Previous work has shown that minority groups (e.g., African Americans) tend to report being more concerned about issues such as climate change compared to non-Hispanic whites. Therefore, this study attempted to examine whether media use led these groups to converge to hold similar views on the issue of climate change. Their results did not show that use of conservative media resulted in different racial and ethnic groups converging to a similar point. However, use of non-partisan media did seem to result in these different groups holding similar climate change views. Specifically, whites tended to hold similar views as minority groups the more they used non-partisan media.

The results of these findings show that the source of information regarding climate change can lead people to become more (or less) willing to take steps in their day-to-day lives to address the issue of climate change. Moreover, these findings show that the potential effects of media on environmental beliefs may not be uniform across racial and ethnic groups.

The original research paper, “Expanding the Theory of Planned Behavior: Implications for Media Use, Race/Ethnicity, and Pro-Environmental Intentions,” was presented at the AEJMC annual conference in August, 2019.

The summary was written by Jay Hmielowski, Ph.D.

Posted: December 18, 2019
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