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Expanding Skepticism: Populist Climate Change Communication in the U.S. Media

posted on 23.08.2021, 15:44 by Janel E JettJanel E Jett
Motivating the political will necessary for fair and ambitious climate change policies is significantly complicated by the rise of populism. Right-wing populist communication targets civil servants and intellectuals as conspirators furthering a climate agenda for their own self-interest. Yet, despite the real world implications of populist communication, more work is needed to both (1) understand the presence of populist frames in media communication on climate change and (2) untangle the relationships between the far-right and diverse forms of climate skepticism. Completing a content analysis of newspaper opinion pieces and Fox News programing between 2008 and 2020, I find that populist skeptic frames are an important part of media communication on climate change in both the Wall Street Journal and Fox News. Additionally, I find that populist skeptic frames most commonly use process skeptic claims, leveraging conspiratorial language to describe collusion between the government and scientists to falsify the severity of climate change and control the public for their own gain. Using a survey experiment, I find that higher populist attitudes are negatively associated with both belief in climate change and support for climate mitigation policies among Republicans. Conversely, I do not find a significant effect of exposure to a populist process skeptic frame, prompting the need for more work on the connections between populist skeptic framing and climate change attitudes.


Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy


Political Science

Campus location

West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Leigh Raymond

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee co-chair

Rosalee A. Clawson

Additional Committee Member 2

Erin Hennes

Additional Committee Member 3

Eric N. Waltenburg

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