Cultural Characters and Climate Change: How Heroes Shape Our Perception of Climate Science


  • Michael D. Jones

    Corresponding author
    1. Center for Public Administration and Policy, Virginia Tech
    • Direct correspondence to Michael D. Jones, Center for Public Administration and Policy, Virginia Tech, 104 Draper Road, Blacksburg, VA 24061 〈〉.

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  • I would like to thank Hank C. Jenkins-Smith, Ronald Keith Gaddie, Dan Kahan, Glen Krutz, and Paul Spicer for their helpful comments and suggestions related to this project and Trent Reznor for help with the inspiration to complete it. The data used in this article were collected with the support of Decision Risk and Management Sciences section of the National Science Foundation, grant number SBR 0962589. The author will share all data for purposes of replication.



This research examines how narrative communication structures influence the public's perceptions of risk and policy preferences related to climate change.


An Internet-based experiment is used to expose roughly 1,500 census-balanced U.S. respondents to climate change information. Four experimental treatments are operationalized: a baseline control fact list and three culturally nuanced narratives.


Ordinary least squares (OLS) regression analysis indicates that narrative structure, particularly through the hero character, plays a powerful role in shaping climate change perceptions of risk and policy preferences.


Explanations of the public's perceptions of risk and climate change policy preferences should more explicitly account for the role of dominant climate narratives.