Trust in Media Representation of Environmental Problems

By Mindy Engle-Friedman, Gleb Furman, Florence Lui and Eunjung Lee.

Published by The International Journal of Sustainability Education

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published Online: July 9, 2015 $US5.00

Trust in media representations of environmental problems is essential for public education and action. The attitudes of 1207 undergraduates regarding the accuracy and slant of media coverage of environmental threats and climate change were measured over three years. Overall, students believed the media inaccurately portrays and understates the seriousness of environmental threats. When asked about climate change, nearly half were uncertain of the media’s accuracy, over a third felt the reporting was inaccurate and less than one in five thought it was accurate. Similar feelings of uncertainty or inaccuracy were reported for representations of water and food shortage. Males were more skeptical than females of the media’s portrayal of the seriousness of environmental challenges, but were less convinced that the media underplays their seriousness. Asian students, in comparison to other ethnicities, most believed the media’s accuracy. Findings were stable over the three years and suggest that the urban college student does not trust the media’s accounts or is unaware of environmental threats and the media’s reporting of them. More accurate and compelling environmental reporting, as well as more frequent reporting of valuable information by the media may help to shift these attitudes.

Keywords: Media Portrayals of Climate Change, Environmental Attitudes, Sustainability Attitudes, Global Warming

International Journal of Sustainability Education, Volume 10, Issue 2, October 2015, pp.1-18. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published Online: July 9, 2015 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 797.049KB)).

Dr. Mindy Engle-Friedman

Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, Baruch College, City University of New York, New York, New York, USA

Gleb Furman

Graduate Student, University of Austin, Austin, Texas, USA

Florence Lui

Graduate Student, Graduate Program in Clinical Psychology, The Graduate Center, City University of New York, New York, New York, USA

Eunjung Lee

Head of Assessment, Department of Psychology, Human Behavior, and Environmental Sustainability Lab, Baruch College, City University of New York, Austin, Texas, USA