Tracking Framing Effects in the McCain Climate Ad
Matthew C. Nisbet, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Communication Studies, Public Policy, and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University. Nisbet studies the role of communication and advocacy in policymaking and public affairs, focusing on debates over over climate change, energy, and sustainability. Among awards and recognition, Nisbet has been a Visiting Shorenstein Fellow on Press, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, a Health Policy Investigator at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and a Google Science Communication Fellow. In 2011, the editors at the journal Nature recommended Nisbet's research as “essential reading for anyone with a passing interest in the climate change debate,” and the New Republic highlighted his work as a “fascinating dissection of the shortcomings of climate activism."
As I wrote last week, in John McCain's recent television ad focusing on global warming, he frames his position as a pragmatic "middle way" approach between the two extremes of denying there is a problem and resorting to heavy taxation and regulation. The ad even ends by offering up the complementary frames that global warming is in fact a national security problem and involves a moral duty to future generations. Perhaps most notably, the ad opens by using imagery of more intense hurricanes, a "pandora's box" framing that has led to claims of alarmism directed at advocates such as Al Gore.
So in the span of 30 seconds, there is a message or frame offered that will resonate with almost everyone, Democrats, Independents, and Republicans alike.
You can watch this frame resonance work in real time with an innovative online evaluation at MediaCurves.com. While viewing the ad, a panel of participants indicated their positive and negative levels by moving their mouse from left to right on a continuum. The responses were recorded in quarter-second intervals and reported in the form of curves. The participants' emotions were measured using the Ayer Emotion Battery. Participants were also asked pre- and post-viewing questions.
What's interesting from the results, is that in the beginning of the ad, Democrats respond positively to the opening pandora's box frame focusing on hurricanes, all three partisan groups decline in reaction to the discussion of two gridlocked polar extremes on the issue, and then Republicans spike favorably to the frame focus on national security and moral duty respectively.
A similar method called "dial groups" has been used by the GOP pollster Frank Luntz to test language on climate change for Republican and industry clients. Luntz is widely credited with figuring out the language and frames to downplay the urgency of climate change. See the YouTube clip below.
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- The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
- Nuclear fusion could someday provide the planet with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.
- Still, scientists have many other obstacles to pass before fusion technology becomes a viable energy source.
Military recruits are supposed to be assessed to see whether they're fit for service. What happens when they're not?
- During the Vietnam War, Robert McNamara began a program called Project 100,000.
- The program brought over 300,000 men to Vietnam who failed to meet minimum criteria for military service, both physically and mentally.
- Project 100,000 recruits were killed in disproportionate numbers and fared worse after their military service than their civilian peers, making the program one of the biggest—and possibly cruelest—mistakes of the Vietnam War.
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- Women and nonwhite candidates made record gains in the 2018 midterms.
- In total, almost half of the newly elected Congressional representatives are not white men.
- Those changes come almost entirely from Democrats; Republican members-elect are all white men except for one woman.
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