Climate change and the media in the USA
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Research has shown that media is one of the major influences towards the public concern or national mood in a society, and this in turn can influence the policy output of the government of this society. The media influences the public concern in two ways, with the amount of publications and with the actual content of these publications. This research is focussed on the link between media and climate change, since less than 50 per cent of United States citizens believes in anthropogenic climate change. The Washington Post and the New York Times for the year 2014 are examined and a comparison is thereby made of two groups: those who acknowledge anthropogenic climate change and those who are sceptic. The difference between the two groups on the amount of media appearances was 34%. Articles that acknowledge anthropogenic climate change appeared 186 times in both of the newspapers in 2014, while only 51 published articles were sceptic. The amount of publications is hereby not in line with the amount of Americans in doubt towards climate change, since the group of articles where anthropogenic climate change is acknowledged is a vast majority, and research showed that a greater coverage leads to a higher public concern and this is not the case. On the content side, there were a lot of differences visible between the two groups in 2014; the cause of climate change is explained with scientific knowledge in the articles where anthropogenic climate change is acknowledged, whereas there was little use of scientific knowledge in the sceptic group. In line with this; the actors mentioned mainly in the ‘acknowledged group’ were scientists; while in the sceptic group, politicians and big companies were most often seen. Mentioning politicians and big companies seem to have more influence than the mentioning of scientists has on the public opinion. In the acknowledge group the cause of climate change was often mentioned quickly and implicitly; while in the sceptical articles there were often explicit and direct statements made towards the existence and cause of climate change, this could be an explanation of the lack of public concern as well. In the acknowledged group there was more often a negative tone present in the newspaper articles, while in the sceptic group the majority was written in a more neutral tone. There could hereby be said that the usage of a neutral tone seems to have a bigger influence than a negative tone on the public concern. There are five framing themes indicated since research showed these are of influence (Industrialized countries’ economic policies, Sustainability, Technological optimism, Emerging economies’ responsibility, Global understanding of ecology). These themes often appeared in the acknowledge group, while these rarely appeared in the sceptic group, hereby this way of framing seem less of an influence than expected. Not all the findings are inline with the amount of doubt in the USA towards the existence of anthropogenic climate change. Consequently, further research is necessary, since this research only focuses on newspaper coverage. Nonetheless, this research has found some interesting possible explanations.