Public Opinion and the Environment: How Does Message Framing Influence Public Attitudes about Environmental Regulations?

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Carnes, Nicholas William

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Message framing is a common strategy that politicians, government officials, and the media use when communicating with the public about environmental issues. However, message frames about environmental regulations are often misleading, potentially reinforcing misinformation and misperceptions among the voting public. This may translate into a net shift in the level of public support for or opposition against environmental policies and regulations. With this paper, I attempt to answer the following policy question: how does message framing affect public opinion about environmental regulations? I first analyze a sample of polling data from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research’s iPOLL Databank to: 1) identify the most commonly used environmental message frames over the past decade (2004-2014), and 2) determine how these frames affect survey results. Then, using these message frames, I conduct a survey of the voting public to examine whether persuasive pro-environmental messaging can elicit survey responses that differ from observed historical patterns. I find that message frames emphasizing environmental regulations’ benefits to public health and economic growth generate more pro-environmental responses than frames that simply stress the need for environmental protection. Environmental groups who engage in future policymaking and advocacy efforts can use these findings to inform more effective message framing strategies that may prompt the public to express greater support for environmental regulations and environmental issues in general.





Grantham, Sarah (2014). Public Opinion and the Environment: How Does Message Framing Influence Public Attitudes about Environmental Regulations?. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from

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