Meerow: Framing affects public support for local action

Sustainability scientist Sara Meerow has co-authored a paper using survey experiments to show how people conceptualize different terms used to frame environmental policies and how this affects public opinion. The paper, Positively Resilient? How Framing Local Action Affects Public Opinion, appears in Urban Affairs Review.

The abstract follows.

Cities face numerous environmental challenges. Local governments need the public’s support to tackle these problems, and scholars and practitioners have suggested that framing initiatives around resilience, as opposed to sustainability, reducing vulnerability, or adaptation, may increase public support for local action. Resilience, they argue, has a better social connotation, is more positive, and less polarizing than related concepts. Empirical evidence supporting these claims is lacking. In three online survey experiments, we test whether the public is more likely to support policies when they are framed in terms of “resilience.” We also examine public conceptualizations of these different terms and whether resilience has a more positive connotation. We find significant differences in policy support, perceived importance, and interpretations of the concepts. The study confirms that framing affects policy support, but complicates claims that resilience is inherently more appealing. These findings have implications for urban research and policymaking.