Enhancing climate change communication: Strategies for profiling and targeting Australian interpretive communities

Authors: Donald Hine, Wendy Phillips, Joseph Reser, Ray Cooksey, Anthony Marks, Patrick Nunn, Susan Watt and Michelle Ellul
Year: 2013

This nationwide study on climate change messages and responses suggests that message attributes should be adjusted to effectively communicate with different climate change interpretive communities (groups of Australians who share similar psychological or behavioural traits related to climate change) within Australia. Interpretive communities were identified and profiled through two nationwide sample surveys. The first survey of 3096 Australians (aged 15-108) identified 5 distinct groups of Australians with similar views and understandings about climate change – Alarmed (26%), Concerned (39%), Uncertain (14%), Doubtful (12%), and Dismissive (9%). The second survey of 1031 Australians (aged 18-66) expanded on the scope of survey 1, to additionally examine how members of interpretive communities respond to climate change adaptation messages, and to identify the specific attributes of messages that drive such responses. Providing specific adaptation advice in messages was found to be effective for all communities. The research also generated a number of findings supporting the idea of tailoring climate change messages to specific interpretive groups for greater effectiveness, including: Effective messages for Dismissive respondents used simple language and did not emphasise descriptive social norms; Uncommitted audience members responded positively to messages that focused on preventing losses and had a strong emotional component; Alarmed respondents preferred messages that focused on local issues and had a collectivist frame.

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