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New Research on Value-Based Segmentation of the Chinese Public

Engaging the public in climate action is a key task in the pursuit of climate neutrality and the global 1.5-degree goal. For communicators, how to tell climate stories so as to create agency around climate change is a long-standing challenge.

Global research indicates that people’s values and worldviews significantly influence their perceptions, attitudes, and actions, and that narratives resonating more effectively with a diverse range of public values have a better chance of motivating action. However, there has historically been a lack of in depth understanding of the values and worldviews of the Chinese public.

To fill this gap, EF China recently supported Tsinghua University to conduct multi-disciplinary research to understand the values of the Chinese public, investigate how the public is segmented based on those values, and gather information on where and how climate messages can chime in. That research has just been published in a report, Climate Narratives for the Chinese Public: Six Segments and Narrative. Arguably the first of its kind in China, the report:

• Groups the Chinese public into six segments based on their values and worldviews, resulting from a >8000-sample survey and multi-disciplinary analysis. The six segments are: Backbone Traditionalists, Disengaged Individuals, Passionate Strivers, Easygoing Leisurists, Moderate Pragmatists, and Philosophical Observers;
• Finds that each segment has its unique reasons to engage (or not to) in climate action. For instance, talking about how climate change affects vulnerable groups is more likely to draw the attention of Passionate Strivers, while implications of climate change on quality of life may trigger concerns of Disengaged Individualists;
• Proposes different angles for climate storytelling to each segment based on their value-based stance on climate change. For instance, Backbone Traditionalists respond better to “patriotism” and “China’s International Leadership” in the climate narrative, while Philosophical Observers resonate more with in-depth analysis containing solid data and facts; and,
• Develops a How-To guide for various stakeholders on how to use the research.

The six segments are introduced and summarized in the infographic below:

The report is an important step in our approach to stir new thinking and doing in climate communication. We have already shared the report among the field via a few workshops, with highly positive feedback. For next steps, we will support a few NGOs and media partners to apply the findings to their work in a pilot—using the findings to facilitate audience analysis and messaging design for specific campaigns, and developing tailor-made toolkits for climate communicators/advocates trying to engage specific segments of audience. Meanwhile, a series of value-based narrative projects with specific themes (e.g. Generation Z and climate) is in the pipeline.

The report was released in April 2023 by the Center for Climate Communication and Risk Governance at the Tsinghua School of Journalism and Communication. In June 2022, under a Memorandum of Understanding between Tsinghua and EF China, we supported the establishment of the center, which is committed to advancing the development of climate communications related disciplines and responding to emerging issues in climate communications practice. This research report is the center’s first deliverable in 2023. As we try to unleash the potential of narrative building and public engagement as a key driver of achieving carbon neutrality, EF China will continue to support innovative research into climate communications and hone their findings to meet the needs of various communications entities for application.

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