Misinformation in the Time of Climate Change: The Generation Gap in the Effects of Misinformation

Jackson Bare, Christopher Fenner, Department of Communications, University of West Florida, 11000 University Pkwy, Pensacola, FL 32514

Misinformation has increased rapidly over the past few years, causing public confusion about major events, such as the exaggerated reactions of officials during the “Ebola Outbreak” in 2014. Whether it sparks massive chain reactions or influences daily life choices, misinformation has the potential to be quite destructive. Public knowledge of climate change science is an area that has been significantly clouded due to misinformation campaigns. As college students today will be directly impacted by climate change and will heavily influence public policy in the comings years, it is crucial to understand the attitudes, behaviors and extent of their knowledge regarding current anthropogenic climate change science. Because older generations have had more experience and have seen the changes occurring over the years, they should be more informed about climate and should be less impacted by misinformation. This study aims to determine how college students and older generations compare in their level of climate change information, and how their knowledge surrounding the issue affects their purchasing decisions and political decisions. Through a quantitative survey using a convenience sample, respondents will be asked about their knowledge regarding climate change, common misconceptions related to climate change, how climate change affects their purchasing and voting decisions and how they view the media’s involvement surrounding climate change. Results from the quantitative survey will be combined with qualitative data from intercept interviews and compared between age groups. This study serves to increase the body of knowledge on how misinformation is shaping college students’ understanding of a scientific issue with policy implications. If the upcoming purchasing and voting public is misinformed about climate change and its severity, changes to reduce climate change in public policy and individual behavior are highly unlikely.

Additional Abstract Information

Presenter: Charles Bare

Institution: University of West Florida

Type: Poster

Subject: Communications

Status: Approved

Time and Location

Session: Poster 4
Date/Time: Tue 11:00am-12:00pm
Session Number: 3660