Assessing the Accuracy of Cable News
Coverage of Climate Science
Our national debate about climate policy is broken. Too often, policy makers and other public figures make misleading statements that question whether climate change is humaninduced—or is even occurring at all—rather than debating whether and how to respond to risks from climate change that scientists have identified. Media outlets can do more to foster a fact-based conversation about climate change and policies designed to address it. Such conversations can help audiences base their positions on climate policy on accurate climate science, as well as their varying political beliefs, attitudes, and values.
To gauge how accurately elite media outlets inform audiences on climate science, we analyzed climate science coverage across the three major cable news networks: Cable News Network (CNN), Fox News Channel, and MSNBC. We found that the accuracy of this coverage varied significantly across networks. In
2013, 70 percent of climate-science-related segments on CNN were accurate,
28 percent of Fox News Channel segments were accurate, and 92 percent of such segments on MSNBC were accurate.
In this report, we discuss social science related to public perceptions of physical science, provide a brief overview of our methods (covered in more detail in the online appendix at www.ucsusa.org/scienceorspin), present results for each network, and discuss each network’s coverage. We present recommendations and suggestions for climate science coverage that could serve to improve the scientific accuracy of public discussions about potential responses to climate change.
Accurate Science Coverage Makes Our
Democratic Dialogues on Climate
Statements from policy makers and related media coverage exert significant influence on public attitudes toward climate change (Brulle, Carmichael, and Jenkins 2012). CNN, Fox
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