Friday, June 20, 2014

An Externally-Valid Approach to Consensus Messaging

Perceived consensus (Credit: Click to enlarge.
A 2012 Pew survey of the general public found that, even among liberals, there is low perception of the scientific consensus on human-caused global warming.  When Democrats are asked “Do scientists agree earth is getting warmer because of human activity?”, only 58% said yes.  There’s a significant "consensus gap” even for those whose cultural values predispose them towards accepting the scientific consensus.  A “liberal consensus gap”.
So if cultural cognition can't fully explain the consensus gap, what else has contributed?

A clue to the answer lies with a seasoned communicator whose focus is solely on “externally valid” approaches to messaging.  To put past efforts at consensus messaging into perspective, reflect on these words of wisdom from Republican strategist and messaging expert Frank Luntz on how to successfully communicate a message:
You say it again, and you say it again, and you say it again, and you say it again, and you say it again, and then again and again and again and again, and about the time that you're absolutely sick of saying it is about the time that your target audience has heard it for the first time.  And it is so hard, but you've just got to keep repeating, because we hear so many different things — the noises from outside, the sounds, all the things that are coming into our head, the 200 cable channels and the satellite versus cable, and what we hear from our friends.
Luntz advocated casting doubt on the consensus for one simple reason.  When people understand that scientists agree that humans are causing global warming, then they’re more likely to support policies to mitigate climate change.  Confuse people about consensus, and you delay climate action.

An Externally-Valid Approach to Consensus Messaging

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