by Dr. Louise Comeau
What we did
We surveyed 857 Ontarians in September 2015 to explore thoughts about carbon pricing and Emissions Trading (cap and trade) policies and 12 frames/narratives. Each narrative (six on carbon pricing; six on cap and trade) expressed a different ‘idea’, or cognitive frame, developed by George Marshall at the Climate Outreach and Information Network (COIN).These ideas covered frames such as “polluter pay”, “common sense”, “hidden costs”, “we’re all in it together”, “security”, “balance”, “the cap is a limit”, and “where does the money go?”.
What we found
- Ontarians cautiously and moderately support carbon pricing and cap and trade. Despite a risk that these policies will raise their cost of living they believe the policies will benefit the environment, make polluters pay, and allows us to take responsibility now for climate change so that our grandchildren won’t have to.
- Word choices and the cognitive frames behind them influence beliefs on carbon pricing and cap and trade. With the modest priming exercise used in this survey, exposure to carbon pricing and cap and trade narratives increases overall endorsement. Exposure to the carbon pricing narratives increases those who are somewhat supportive to 35% from 29% and to 23% from 12% for strong support (overall 58% from 41%).
- The greatest post-exposure gain is for cap and trade, which increases to 36% from 30% in somewhat support, and doubles in strongly support to 23% from 12% (overall 59% from 42%). Thirty-four percent of the respondents who shift towards support for cap and trade (n = 62) are conservative in orientation, with the majority not too or somewhat concerned about climate change; 44% are liberal in orientation and somewhat or very concerned about climate change. Twenty-seven percent of the 62 people who shifted in support toward cap and trade are 55 to 64 years old; more are male (58%), and over half had bachelor or post-graduate degrees.
- Results also shed light on how to align carbon pricing and cap and trade frames and narratives with organizations’ particular theories of change. If the focus is on animating the already engaged, results from this survey provide guidance on how to communicate to Ontarians who are very concerned about climate change. These Ontarians have internalized the moral need to act, are strongly supportive of carbon pricing and cap and trade policies, and do not believe these approaches will increase their cost of living. The narratives most supported by this group were balanced among narratives that emphasized the need for consumer shifts through policies that send a price signal, and narratives that emphasized the need for companies to take responsibility and be accountable.
- If an organizations’ theory of change adheres more to the need to engage the unengaged or citizens straddling more of the middle ground, then these survey results also suggest options for moving forward. In this case, the goal would be to reach Ontarians somewhat concerned or not too concerned about climate change in addition to the very concerned. This group has not yet internalized climate change as a moral reason to act and is particularly sensitive to cost concerns. For this group, there is less focus on the moral need to personally act and more focus on the moral need for companies to act. Results from this survey show that effective narratives can increase support for carbon pricing and cap and trade among this group.
Webinar from November 18th, 2015 available here: http://bit.ly/1XakReA