A study led by Cornell University communication researchers found that Pope Francis’ framing of climate change as a moral issue has helped shift views on climate action, especially among the politically conservative.
"When Pope Francis issued his encyclical paper in June 2015, he emerged as a strong advocate for climate action," said Jonathon P. Schuldt, assistant professor of communication.
Schuldt, along with Adam R. Pearson of Pomona College and Rainer Romero-Canyas and Dylan Larson-Konar, both of the Environmental Defense Fund looked into understanding a mechanism for changing public opinion about climate change. Their research, "Brief Exposure to Pope Francis Heightens Moral Beliefs About Climate Change," was published online in the journal Climatic Change, Dec. 30.
More than 1,200 U.S. adults were asked for their moral beliefs about climate change. Half of those polled were briefly shown a photograph of the pope prior to answering questions, and the others were shown his picture afterward.
The researchers found that seeing the pope's picture before the belief questions increased and shifted moral perceptions of wide segments of the public.