Doctoral student Heather Akin receives top-student honor at AEJMC

Doctoral student Heather Akin will receive a top-student paper honor at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) conference in Chicago from the ComSHER (Communicating Science, Health, Environment and Risk) division.

Her paper, “Concern about Climate Change: A Cross-National Analysis of Political, Cultural, and Media Influences” analyzes the effect of the political structure, economic status, and environmental behaviors of countries, and how this influences individuals’ concerns about climate change in 24 distinct nations. The study also considers citizens’ values, education, demographic characteristics, and media use to assess the impact of these systems on climate change concern.

This multilevel analysis used in this study provides a new approach to consider how societal-level attributes relating to the environment and individuals’ belief systems are used to make sense of environmental risks. The findings from this analysis provide insight into the characteristics of societies that are most amenable to dealing with environmental threats like climate change. This research highlights the concerns that may be most relevant in societies that, as of late, have not been as informed about climate change. Results of the study indicate that characteristics of nations, particularly status as a democracy, national wealth, and environmental commitment, significantly influence citizens’ concern about climate change. The author hopes that findings from this study could help countries collaborate more effectively on international environmental policies and assist in individual nations’ efforts to mobilize concern about global warming.

Akin’s broader research program examines public opinion and perceptions of environmental issues, and how these perceptions influence regional, national and global policy. Her research investigates how cultural and religious values operate as filters in shaping individuals’ attitudes about the environment and their willingness to adopt sustainable behaviors. Her current interest is on public opinion and the environment in Southeast Asia. She is a fluent speaker of Bahasa Indonesia. Her research has been presented at several academic conferences, including the Midwest Association of Public Opinion Research (MAPOR) and the International Communication Association (ICA). She co-authored an article recently published in Communication Research.