Exploring the effect of media framing, protest actions, and pre-existing attitudes on attitudes of support for climate change mitigation

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Science by Research (MScR)


How does media coverage of protests affect attitudes toward protesters, the actions they take, and the overarching cause that protests represent? Social movements may capture both public attention and the attention of the elites via the actions they take – but protesters cannot control how these actions are framed into a narrative in the media and what impact this has on public support for the protest. Using a between-subjects design, the study explored how the protest-paradigm framing (high or low intensity) and protestors actions (extreme or moderate) as well as pre-existing attitudes, namely attitudes to protest, political orientation and climate change concern and belief may predict attitudes to support for climate change mitigation activists ‘Extinction Rebellion’ (XR) in a UK sample. In line with our predictions, the multiple regression findings showed that the high-intensity frame reduced support for the action, the protestors, the cause, willingness to join and ratings of immorality. There was no main effect of frame for the mitigation support measure which is discussed in relation to methodological limitations. Extreme actions, relative to moderate actions, had the same overall effect of reducing support on the various measures. A two-way interaction emerged between the frame and action for the support for the action measure which implied that the moderate action was supported statistically significantly more when the framing was low-intensity, whereas when the framing was high-intensity, support for either moderate or extreme action was similarly low. Pre-existing attitudes to protests in general was an important predictor of support outcomes, with some pre-existing attitudes interacting with the framing and action effect discussed further. The results substantiate concerns about media framing influencing public attitudes to protest, whilst highlighting an activists-dilemma in which the same actions which are useful for getting the attention of the press, may be less supported by the public.
Date of Award22 Mar 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bristol
SupervisorColin J Davis (Supervisor)

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