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Media Framing and Public Attitudes Toward Biofuels


  • Work on this research and paper was facilitated by a Human Social Dynamics grant (#0729348) from the National Science Foundation. This research was conducted in collaboration with the Purdue Energy Center and the Purdue Climate Change Research Center. We are grateful for the feedback and support of our colleagues Duane Wegener and Vanessa Sawicki. Any errors that remain, of course, are the responsibility of the authors. PCCRC paper no. 1234.


This study investigates the relationship between media framing and public opinion on the issue of biofuels—transportation fuels made from plants, animal products, or organic waste. First, the paper investigates how media framing of biofuels has changed since the issue regained national prominence in the early 2000s. Through a detailed content analysis of newspaper coverage, the paper documents an increase in negative frames between 1999 and 2008, especially frames focusing on the negative economic effects of biofuels on consumers. Second, using data from a 2010 Internet survey of a random sample of the U.S. public, the paper analyzes the relative influence of these new media frames on public attitudes toward biofuels compared with other common predictors of public opinion, such as party ID, regional economic interests, and personal identity as an environmentalist. In general, the results confirm that public attitudes toward biofuels appear to be shaped by these new media frames, especially among those who indicate a high degree of attention to the media, suggesting the relative importance of framing effects on policy attitudes for environmental and energy policies in general.