Measuring Londoners’ attitudes to climate change and evaluating the impacts of initiatives to shift them

Greater London Authority and the LSx
Start date:
September 2007
March 2008

Brook Lyndhurst was appointed to conduct research to both inform and evaluate the Engaging Londoners communications campaign. Run by the GLA and LSx, and funded through Defra's Climate Challenge Fund, the campaign aimed to shift attitudes towards climate change in London.

The project involved working with Ethnos (specialists in ethnic minority research) to review Londoners' attitudes to climate change and test means of communicating with two specific groups: Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities, and higher socio-economic (ABC1) groups. The emerging initiatives were then evaluated using quantitative research with target audiences at specific events, and with Londoners in general.

The key objectives of this research were to:

  1. Review an existing draft GLA report on Londoners’ awareness of and attitudes to climate change and incorporate any additional sources of material into the report;
  2. Develop a methodology and carry out qualitative research to assist in reaching target audiences and develop appropriate, tailored messages about climate change;
  3. Evaluate the impacts of the project and shifts in Londoners’ awareness of and attitudes to climate change over time.

The project began with a literature review covering available materials on 1) attitudes to climate change and 2) building effective dialogue with the public using social marketing techniques, particularly within the London context.  The findings were incorporated into a review of the existing draft GLA report and used, along with a programme of qualitative research, to inform the development of the campaign materials.

Reflecting the dual approach to communicating the issue (namely a mass marketing campaign through advertising on the tube, and engagement with BAME communities at specific events) we conducted two separate strands of qualitative research:

Five focus groups with tube users (mixed in terms of gender and ethnicity) including:

  • Two initial groups to get a sense of the attitudes they held with respect to the environment, to gauge how successful existing environmental communications have been in reaching tube users and to generate suggestions for messages that could be used in the newcampaign;
  • Two groups to test both the messages and the design of adverts subsequently developed by the GLA's creative team; and
  • One final group to test out new messages developed following feedback from the second set of groups.

Four focus groups with BAMEs to reflect the audiences selected for engagement at specific events. These were:

  • Respondents aged 18 to 35 of Caribbean origin;
  • Respondents aged 18 to 35 of African origin;
  • Respondents aged 20 to 35 of Chinese origin;
  • Respondents aged 20 to 45 of Kurdish origin.

The evaluation element of the project was separated along similar lines.
- For the tube campaign, a baseline survey of 516 respondents was conducted online, prior to campaign launch, along with a follow-up survey of 855 respondents (by project partners ICM).

- Activity at the targeted events was evaluated through face-to-face interviews (or, in the case of foreign language interviews, through self-completion interviews) conducted during the events to collect feedback of people’s experiences of engagement on the day, as well as a series of follow-up telephone interviews. These took place at:

  • Kulture2Couture (17 & 18 November 2007, Victoria & Albert Museum, 106 interviews)
  • Kurdish Film Festival (Rio Cinema, 3-4 December, 2007, 59 responses)
  • China in London (Leicester Square, 10 February, 2008, 100 responses)

Overall, our research found that in communicating about climate change:

  • Messages need to be simple and should not rely entirely on logic and facts;
  • The argument about climate change should be treated as won;
  • There is a need to avoid long timelines and the disparity between the scale of the problem itself and the scale on which individuals can act;
  • Communications should be both personal and local in focus;
  • Fear, shock and hard guilt should be avoided as they may result in people switching off in the long run;
  • People need to be inspired into taking action and, in particular, climate friendly attitudes should be made to seem both normal and attractive;
  • Imagery should be treated as extremely important.

Our work with Londoners of Black African and Black Caribbean origin pointed to the impact of using references to their countries of origin as well as using ethnic media channels and community spaces for channelling communications. Discussions with Londoners of Chinese origin pointed to the need for materials to be published both in Chinese and in English, make explicit reference to the Chinese experience, convey a sense of urgency and stipulate the role of human behaviour in causing climate change. Meanwhile, Londoners of Kurdish origin stressed the need for simple, practical messages aimed at the individual and making specific reference to the Kurdish community. In sum, the call for messages tailored to each audience stressed the need for research within each community to take place before materials are designed.

The evaluation element of the research showed that the success of the tube advertising in creating short-term attitudinal change was modest. Meanwhile a number of lessons were learnt about effectively engaging with specific groups at large events:

  • The need to know who will be attending events;
  • The need for communications to take account of the existing knowledge and attitudes of the audience as well as particular characteristics such as language;
  • The difficulty of communication in a crowded setting, where people have no reason to listen or be party to the communications taking place;
  • The vital role played by those transmitting any message and the need for these people to build a rapport with attendees (which includes communicating with them using language and vocabulary that they are comfortable with), as well as a need to be relatively knowledgeable about the subject matter.

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