An empirical examination of echo chambers in US climate policy networks


Diverse methods have been applied to understand why science continues to be debated within the climate policy domain. A number of studies have presented the notion of the ‘echo chamber’ to model and explain information flows across an array of social settings, finding disproportionate connections among ideologically similar political communicators. This paper builds on these findings to provide a more formal operationalization of the components of echo chambers. We then empirically test their utility using survey data collected from the community of political elites engaged in the contentious issue of climate politics in the United States. Our survey period coincides with the most active and contentious period in the history of US climate policy, when legislation regulating carbon dioxide emissions had passed through the House of Representatives and was being considered in the Senate. We use exponential random graph (ERG) modelling to demonstrate that both the homogeneity of information (the echo) and multi-path information transmission (the chamber) play significant roles in policy communication. We demonstrate that the intersection of these components creates echo chambers in the climate policy network. These results lead to some important conclusions about climate politics, as well as the relationship between science communication and policymaking at the elite level more generally.

Publication Type
Journal Article
Nature Climate Change

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