The role of conflict framing and social identity in public opinion about land use change: An experimental test in the Australian context [IN PRESS]

Rebecca Colvin, G Bradd Witt, Justine Lacey, Rod McCrea

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    Decision makers use public opinion as an indicator of social acceptance for land use changes. However, public opinion is informed by, inter alia, the media, which tends to "frame" issues of public interest in terms of social conflict rather than the substantive details of the issue. Previous research about the influence of conflict on public opinion about politics has yielded contradictory results about the effect of this "conflict framing." Some studies have shown that conflict framing polarises public opinion, whereas others have found that it moderates public opinion. Similarly, there is no clear understanding of how conflict framing may affect public opinion about the social acceptance of land use changes. This study presents an experimental survey with a quota sample of the Australian population (n = 1,147) where fictional land use change headlines were manipulated to represent three levels of conflict framing (no conflict; conflict; and conflict between identified parties). The results showed that heightened conflict framing led to the strength of support or opposition for land use changes to become weaker. Importantly, these findings show that perceived social conflict can shape public opinion on land use change. As a consequence, public opinion may not represent genuine social acceptance of land use change in cases where conflict is pronounced in the media. This raises the need for attentiveness to disentangling the influence of conflict framing from the substantive issues of land use change.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalEnvironmental Policy and Governance
    VolumeOnline
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2020

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