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Economic framing dominates climate policy reporting: a fifty-state analysis

June 21, 2022

In analyzing coverage of renewable portfolio standards in 50 U.S. states, a study by Ann Garth and Timmons Roberts finds that the vast majority of coverage used an economic frame to cover the policies.


This paper analyzes the framing of the leading state-level climate change mitigation policy in the USA, renewable portfolio standards, in top newspapers from all fifty states. From a corpus of 1522 state newspaper articles which mention renewable portfolio standards, our analysis uses structural topic modeling to identify common frames by region, time period, and state partisanship. Interviews with activists in Michigan and Nevada who were involved in framing renewable portfolio standard legislation provides additional context as to how social movement organizations (SMOs) make framing choices. We find that in newspaper reporting economic frames about business development and utility costs strongly predominate over other frames about emissions and public health. Despite some evidence that a public health frame is effective at increasing support for climate mitigation policies and its being advanced by activists, the frame is almost nonexistent in newspaper coverage.