Introducing carbon fee & dividend by writing about morality, co-benefits or pragmatism: First survey results on how framing and backgrounds influence policy support and idea dissemination

University essay from Lunds universitet/Miljövetenskaplig utbildning

Abstract: ‘Fee & dividend’ (F&D) would incentivize the energy transition by levying an annually rising fee on fossil fuels. Simultaneously, all revenues would be given straight back to citizens, protecting a majority against price increases on products and services. Proponents say that this translates into broad popular support and makes the policy the most feasible option for realizing adequate carbon pricing. This study explored whether the framing of written F&D introductions to previously unaware people matters for policy support and idea dissemination. First, proponents’ existing communication as well as literature on climate communication/psychology/policy support was consulted. Morality, Co-benefits (both economic and non-economic) and Pragmatism were concluded to be promising frames with broad appeal. Results also included relevant variables to measure. The frames were then quasi-experimentally tested in a web survey (n = 412; good representativeness for the Swedish public) that randomly assigned respondents to one of three versions of a text about an EU-level F&D implementation. No overall framing effects were found on evaluations on the dependent variables (e.g. positive/negative attitude, perceived fairness, perceived effectiveness). However, several background-variable effects were discovered (e.g. from gender, weekly hours of paid work, municipality population density, political orientation). Of greater importance, though, many interaction effects were also found – i.e. how background variables and frames together affected evaluations. The correlations were mostly weak but nonetheless significant, leading to the conclusion that morality/co-benefits/pragmatism framing does matter when directing the written F&D communication to specific audiences. With care – this being the first study on the topic – the study’s results can thus help proponents tailor their written F&D introductions. The results also put into question the common claims that F&D is perceived as being ideologically neutral.

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