The role and limits of strategic framing for promoting sustainable consumption and policy

Lukas Fesenfeld, Yixian Sun, Michael Wicki, Thomas Bernauer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Strategic issue framing is widely regarded as an effective communication strategy to alter public opinion and citizens’ policy support. However, it is unclear to what extent strategic framing can increase support for ambitious demand-side actions and policies that make the cost of mitigation perceptible in citizens’ everyday lives. Taking an exploratory approach, we conducted qualitative interviews and a comparative framing experiment with 9,750 survey respondents from China, Germany, and the United States. We analyzed strategic issue framing effects in two areas known to be key for increasing the sustainability of consumption: meat/fish consumption, and fossil-fuel car usage. Employing both classical linear regressions and advanced Bayesian sparse estimations, we show that in all three countries widespread arguments in favor of reduced meat/fish consumption and car use are unlikely to substantially alter citizens’ concern, willingness to pay, behavioral intentions and policy support for demand-side action. Our findings suggest that in the absence of a broader behavioral change campaign, strategic issue framing alone is unlikely to be effective in changing entrenched attitudes and behaviors. On its own, it is also unlikely to substantially increase public support for demand-side policies to reduce consumption. More careful research is needed to help policymakers understand the role and limits of different strategic framing techniques.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102266
JournalGlobal Environmental Change
Volume68
Early online date1 Apr 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 Apr 2021

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