Ignorance or bias? Evaluating the ideological and informational drivers of communication gaps about climate change

Erik C. Nisbet, Kathryn E. Cooper, Morgan Ellithorpe

Does the relationship between media use and learning about climate change depend more on audiences’ scientific literacy on their ideological biases? To answer this question, we evaluate both the knowledge gap and belief gap hypotheses as they relate to climate change. Results indicate belief gaps for news and entertainment content and a knowledge gap for edutainment content. Climate change knowledge among conservatives decreased with greater attention to political news, but increased with greater attention to science news. TV entertainment was associated with a significant decrease in knowledge about climate change among liberals to similar levels as conservatives. Edutainment was associated with a widening gap in knowledge based on respondents’ scientific literacy. Implications for informal learning about controversial science through the media are discussed.

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