Depolarising or “Rallying the Base”? The Role of Humour in Communicating Climate Change Consensus

Stevenson, J. (Monash University), Clarke, E. J. R. (Federation University Australia & Misinformation Lab, Deakin University)

With climate change remaining a politically divisive issue, successfully communicating the scientific consensus on global warming across the political spectrum has become increasingly important. However, despite political entertainment television programs being a primary source of political news for many, the possibility of using humour to increase the effectiveness of climate change communication has been largely neglected in the literature. This study therefore aimed to examine whether humorous communication can influence support for climate change mitigation and adaptation policies and pro-climate intentions, as well as whether viewer political orientation moderates these possible effects. One hundred and fifty seven participants, recruited via Amazon MTurk, were presented with either a humorous climate change video (John Oliver’s “A Mathematically Representative Climate Change Debate” clip) or a humorous control (A John Oliver clip unrelated to climate change). As expected, liberals were more likely than conservatives to support mitigation and adaptation policies, and intend to engage in pro-climate behaviours, regardless of the clip viewed. Results also indicate that the “Climate Change Debate” clip may increase pro-climate intentions relative to the unrelated clip, but only for liberal-leaning participants. Implications of these findings for communication on polarised issues will be discussed.

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(Mis)information and Motivated Reasoning Symposium