Tuesday, February 04, 2014

What Greens "Don't Get" about the Republican War on Global Warming.

Note: Today's blog uses the term "Greens" as those who believe human actions (anthropogenic) of burning fossil fuels is the primary driver in Climate Change.

In messaging to shape public opinion, Greens constantly agonize over the lack of understanding and denial of science by Conservatives -- and target this "knowledge problem" as the major obstacle in achieving Green policies. But in reality, its Greens who are not very "street smart" in their approach to both opposition and connecting with most Americans.
Conservatives Are Much Smarter Than Greens Think.

The Big Question: In the Greens' World, there is a yes/no big question that everyone must answer, "Is Global Warming caused by humans?" It defines who you are -- as either a carbon tax loving Warmist, or a science ignorant Denier. But as public opinion polls are reflecting, Greens need to ask themselves a Big Question: Don't they need to do a better job in their message and messaging?

Latest Pew Research Poll Results: While over two-thirds of Americans believe the Earth is warming, only 44% are buying into the Greens' Argument that it's mostly caused by human activity (anthropogenic). Even among the strongest group of Greens supporters, about one-third of Democrats are unconvinced. Clearly public acceptance problems exist with the Greens' science message and their "people skills" in connecting -- as the majority of Americans share uncertainty, doubt, or skepticism as voiced by Conservatives.

Greens need to abandon their Ivory Towers and messaging that's far too often patronizing, apocalyptic, and plays the "guilt card". Better resonating science and economic messages must be developed with messengers who are good teachers and bridge builders. Greens also need to be much more adept in responding to both ideological opposition by Conservatives and the hidden agendas of Republican policies when driven by big-business.

A Good Starting Place for Greens -- Stop Stereotyping: Greens' characterization of Conservatives as comic dimwits is both incorrect and counterproductive. As numerous social science studies and poll research show, Conservatives have general science knowledge equal to, or exceeding other politically affiliated groups. In fact, one recent research study found that with increasing levels of scientific literacy, even more partisan polarization occurs over Global Warming.

Take the Pew Research Quiz on Science and Technology to see where your general knowledge ranks compared to the U.S. Public.

But stopping stereotyping is more than just about about fair play -- its about "people skills" with the Greens' Target Market. Negative labeling hurts efforts to connect with Independents, Moderates, and even one-third of Democrats by sending a wrong message: If you disagree or have doubts with the Greens' Argument, you must be ignorant. Patronizing name-calling only alienates and does not win people over, as the Pew Poll is reflecting.

Greens must understand the difference between ideological opposition versus fair questions over science uncertainty, especially the perceived urgency to act (e.g., predictive ability of climate models).

A Major Obstacle & Need For Bridge Building: Contrary to the ubiquitous negative messaging by Greens, science knowledge really isn't the key problem in achieving greater public acceptance. A major problem is the current and growing polarization in "cultural values ideology" between Red State (Conservatives) versus Blue State (Liberals). When issues are strictly defined or framed in terms of ideological values such as Good versus Evil, the results are toxic. There can be no real public dialogue, people of differing views are demonized, and finding common ground is impossible.

When differences are defined
in terms of moral values,
compromise is impossible.
The key in solving any problem
is to find common ground
between differing views.

After decades of negative ideological "values" messaging on environmental issues from Conservative Think Tanks, Media Sources, and Religious Groups, it's now just a reflex knee-jerk reaction for Conservatives (with spillover to Moderates and Independents) to associate and demonize almost any environmental policy initiative as big-government, socialism, anti-free markets, job loss, and sadly even with Faith (worshiping the Green Dragon).

When Exxon/Mobil is a major cash contributor to conservative religious groups to fight Global Warming as satanic -- you know some serious "culture wars" are going on.

The result of this negative messaging is clearly evident in national polling, where partisan divides on environmental issues are greater than on major issues like the budget deficit, health care, Social Security, etc.

Widest Partisan Differences Over Issues
(% rating each a top priority)
Protecting the Environment:
Problems of Poor & Needy:
Reducing U.S. Budget Deficit:
Dealing with Global Warming:

This extremely negative mindset on environmental issues can explain why over 40% of Tea Party Republicans and 25% of all Republicans (per Pew Polling) believe Global Warming is not even happening.

The consequences of this cultural divide results in very different perspectives in how Global Warming is presented and viewed in the public arena. Where science is the driver for the Greens' messengers, ideological values (effecting policy outcomes) are the drivers for Conservatives.
As Viewed by
As Viewed by Conservatives

This difference in perspective creates a serious dilemma for Greens -- as it's virtually impossible to discuss Climate Change as a stand-alone science issue. Any argument that human actions are primarily causing Climate Change is intrinsically linked to specific policy outcomes. The most prevalent example is a carbon tax, which will have opposition across partisan, cultural, and socioeconomic lines (e.g., with lower income groups as a regressive tax).

Playing by the Conservatives' Rules: Greens need to fully grasp the importance of ideological motivation in forming public opinion -- emphasizing their own positive set of values that can cross partisan divides and achieve key objectives. By messaging positive ideological values better, they may even find some surprising new friends.

Bridge Building to Find & Develop Common Ground

A recent New York Times article illustrates the incredible potential of connecting on ideological values -- where Greens and Conservative Libertarians (the most negative partisan faction opposing Climate Change policies) have found common ground in support of solar energy.

Recognizing Hidden Agendas: In addition to addressing climate science uncertainty and ideological conflicts better, Greens also need to improve their messaging to a third type of opposition. For decades, Republican Strategists have used environmental issues to divert public attention from hidden objectives of big-business special interests. When issues can be framed in a context of "The Environment versus Job Loss/Higher Costs", Republican policy-makers can avoid public opinion scrutiny and answering hard questions that can have nothing to do with the environment.

By achieving this "Framing", Republicans are given a free pass (or certainly less public questioning) on whether their proposed policies are in the best interests of average Americans (regardless of environmental issues) and if these policies truly "walk the talk" on conservative or libertarian values.

The Keystone pipeline project is a perfect illustration of this Republican strategy, where we now (or should) know what Keystone was originally always about -- exporting U.S. oil to foreign markets (like energy hungry China):

With record growth in U.S. oil production, Republican and Oil State politicians, big business leaders, and oil lobbyists are all calling to end a nearly 40 year ban on U.S. crude oil exports. The ban was put into place in the wake of the 1973 OPEC Oil Embargo.

The Issue of Republican Trust: During the coming year, there will be much debate over whether lifting the oil export ban is good policy. But in this public debate there is something even more important to Greens than Global Warming. It about the bedrock of public opinion -- the issue of Trust and if Republican messengers can be trusted:

Where on the cusp of likely Keystone approval, the Republican narrative to the American Public on why Keystone was important has now completely changed.

In the 2012 Presidential Campaign, Keystone was the "Poster Child" of conflict between Environmentalists and Republicans over energy issues. Less than a year ago in the debt ceiling debacle in Congress, Republicans threatened to shut the Federal Government down unless President Obama approved Keystone.

Republican Messaging
to the U.S. Public:
Hidden Agenda
Policy Objective:
In our next follow-up Blog, we will look at the three key building blocks of past Republican messaging of why Keystone was needed -- and how ending the oil export ban is a 180° about-face to Keystone's original arguments.


Additional Stories:
When Religion and Science Collide (N.Y. Times)
Scare Tactics not moving U.S. Public Opinion

1 comment:

Sampson Greenovich said...

I am convinced that relying on foreign oil is no longer necessary. We have so many technologies that can make sure that we have the energy that we need. We need to pull back, take our armies out of the middle east and then put that money into defense and energy innovation.