Political communicators work under the assumption that information provision, such as framing, may influence audiences and elicit some desired attitudinal or behavioral shift. However, some political issues, such as climate change, have become polarized along party lines, with partisans seemingly impervious to disconfirming information. On these highly polarized issues, can framing sway partisans to moderate their positions, or are partisans so motivated in their issue stances that framing fails? Using a variety of vignettes, and Republican climate change skepticism as a case, this article reports an experiment of how partisans respond to counter-attitudinal framing on a sharply polarized issue. Results indicate that Republicans are resistant to frames that encourage support of governmental action or personal engagement against climate change. There is strong evidence of motivated skepticism, given widespread backfire (or ‘boomerang’) effects and decreased attitudinal ambivalence following exposure to framing, suggesting that issue polarization may severely constrain attempts at communication.
(2016). Boomerangs versus Javelins: How Polarization Constrains Communication on Climate Change Environmental Politics
25 (5), 788-811.