Comfort articles examine pope’s role in climate change communication
Religion, political stances and populist attitudes intersect to shape responses to climate change messengers, according to studies published by assistant professor Suzannah Evans Comfort.
“The Pope, Politics, and Climate Change: An Experimental Test of the Influence of News about Pope Francis on American Climate Change Attitudes and Intentions,” by Comfort and Jessica Gall Myrick, BA’05, MA’07, of Penn State University, appears in the Journal of Religion, Media and Digital Culture. “The Pope May Not Be Enough: How Emotions, Populist Beliefs, and Perceptions of an Elite Messenger Interact to Influence Responses to Climate Change Messaging,” also by Comfort and Myrick, appears in Mass Communication and Society.
The researchers conducted an online survey experiment to examine how audiences respond to climate change information from two different climate messengers: Pope Francis and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. They found that Democrats, particularly Catholic Democrats, responded to the pope’s climate change message more favorably than those who identified as Republicans. Politically independent Catholics responded less favorably to the climate change message when the pope was featured.
The second study investigated whether populist attitudes, which are typically anti-elite, could predict backlash against the pope, an elite figure, as a credible climate change messenger. Results showed that there is no universal approach to climate messaging, and climate activists should consider their audiences’ populist attitudes and political affiliations.