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Public attitudes toward biofuels: Effects of knowledge, political partisanship, and media use

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 May 2016

Micheal A. Cacciatore
Affiliation:
Department of Life Sciences Communication, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1545 Observatory Drive, Hiram Smith Hall 307, Madison, WI 53706, mcacciatore@wisc.edu
Dietram A. Scheufele
Affiliation:
Department of Life Sciences Communication, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1545 Observatory Drive, Hiram Smith Hall 309, Madison, WI 53706, scheuflele@wisc.edu
Andrew R. Binder
Affiliation:
Department of Communication, North Carolina State University, 201 Winston Hall, Campus Box 8104, Raleigh, NC 27695, arbinder@ncsu.edu
Bret R. Shaw
Affiliation:
Department of Life Sciences Communication, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1545 Observatory Drive, Hiram Smith Hall 316, Madison, WI 53706, brshaw@wisc.edu
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Abstract

Despite large-scale investments and government mandates to expand biofuels development and infrastructure in the United States, little is known about how the public conceives of this alternative fuel technology. This study examines public opinion of biofuels by focusing on citizen knowledge and the motivated processing of media information. Specifically, we explore the direct effects of biofuels knowledge and the moderating effect of partisanship on the relationship between media use and benefit vs. risk perceptions in the following four domains: environmental impacts, economic consequences, ethical/social implications, and political ramifications. Our results suggest that more knowledgeable respondents see fewer benefits of biofuels relative to risks, and that Democrats and Republicans are affected differently by media use when forming opinions about biofuels. Among Democrats, greater attention to political media content leads to a more favorable outlook toward the technology across several domains of interest, while among Republicans, an increase in attention to political content has the opposite effect. Possible reasons for these results, as well as implications of the findings at the intersection of politics and the life sciences, are discussed.

Type
Research Articles
Copyright
Copyright © Association for Politics and the Life Sciences 

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