Environmental Concern and Situational Communication Theory: Implications for Communicating With Environmental Publics

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Abstract

Public relations practitioners will find Grunig's situational communication theory to be a useful tool for identifying environmental publics and their orientations toward specific environmental issues. The research reported here explores the utility of Van Liere and Dunlap's (1981) measure of environmental concern in differentiating situational publics. The data were collected by telephone survey from 1,002 adult respondents. Members of the routine public did not perceive environmental issues to be a problem because they favored economic development over concern for the environment. The fatalistic public reported watching television news about pollution and held a pro-environmental attitude. Problem recognition provided a cognitive measure of environmental awareness and was consistently associated with communication behavior. Level of involvement and environmental concern provided attitudinal measures of the respondent's orientation toward environmental issues; however, these variables were not consistently associated with communication behavior. Public relations objectives designed to increase awareness and knowledge of an organization's environmental position may be far more effective than attitudinal objectives designed to create a more favorable image for the organization in view of the fact that the relationship between cognition and communication is much stronger than that between affect and communication.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)251-268
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Public Relations Research
Volume5
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 1 1993

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communication behavior
communication theory
communication
telephone
cognition
television
news
organization
economics

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration

Cite this

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abstract = "Public relations practitioners will find Grunig's situational communication theory to be a useful tool for identifying environmental publics and their orientations toward specific environmental issues. The research reported here explores the utility of Van Liere and Dunlap's (1981) measure of environmental concern in differentiating situational publics. The data were collected by telephone survey from 1,002 adult respondents. Members of the routine public did not perceive environmental issues to be a problem because they favored economic development over concern for the environment. The fatalistic public reported watching television news about pollution and held a pro-environmental attitude. Problem recognition provided a cognitive measure of environmental awareness and was consistently associated with communication behavior. Level of involvement and environmental concern provided attitudinal measures of the respondent's orientation toward environmental issues; however, these variables were not consistently associated with communication behavior. Public relations objectives designed to increase awareness and knowledge of an organization's environmental position may be far more effective than attitudinal objectives designed to create a more favorable image for the organization in view of the fact that the relationship between cognition and communication is much stronger than that between affect and communication.",
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