Strong local newspapers are tied to greater support for funding dams, sewers and other basic infrastructure vital to climate resilience, according to a new study by researchers at UCLA and Duke University. Just a few extra paragraphs of context increased support for spending and increased voters’ willingness to hold local politicians accountable for infrastructure neglect by voting them out of office, said Megan Mullin, a UCLA political scientist focused on environmental politics.

Mullin said:

  • “Empty newsrooms and AI reporting don’t provide communities with the information they need to make investments for their own health and security.”
  • “Local news reporting builds public support for infrastructure investments. Heat, floods, drought and fire are putting new stress on aging and deteriorating infrastructure, which must be maintained to protect communities against these growing climate risks. Our study shows that investing in facilities that improve our resilience to climate hazards requires investing in the health of local news.”
  • “We saw more support for infrastructure spending when people read news coverage that provided context about infrastructure neglect and its consequences.”
  • “With fewer reporters staffing newsrooms, the depth of reporting on invisible infrastructure declines.”

Read the full study, published this month in the peer-reviewed journal Political Behavior. Mullin is a UCLA public policy professor and faculty director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation. She focuses on factors shaping political responses to climate change and the U.S. partisan polarization around climate change, such as how Republican constituents’ vulnerability to climate change could inspire climate investment. 

Media are encouraged to quote from Mullin’s comments, or reach out on these and other environmental topics for additional context, research and analysis from UCLA climate experts.

Alison Hewitt
Senior Media Relations Officer
UCLA Strategic Communications | Office of Media Relations
 | @ashewitt | @ahewitt.bsky