The Pope, Politics, and Climate Change: An Experimental Test of the Influence of News about Pope Francis on American Climate Change Attitudes and Intentions

In: Journal of Religion, Media and Digital Culture

News coverage of climate change has expanded beyond a focus on science to include stories relating the topic to religion, particularly following Pope Francis’ 2015 call for Catholics to address climate change as a moral responsibility. We tested how effective Pope Francis is as a messenger on the topic of climate change. A 2 (Pope: present or absent in the story) X 2 (news story topic: climate change or poverty) between-subjects experiment (N = 415) revealed that politically Independent participants reported more negative attitudes and lower behavioral intentions when the Pope was featured in a story than when he was not. Also, Catholic Democrats reported stronger climate change policy support when the Pope was featured in a story than when he was not, but Catholic Independents were more supportive when the Pope was not featured, regardless of topic. Results suggest religion and politics intersect to shape responses to climate messengers.

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