Researcher ORCID Identifier

Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Environmental Analysis

Reader 1

William Ascher

Reader 2

Tamara Venit-Shelton

Terms of Use & License Information

Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

2021 Bryan A Williams


This thesis examines the failure of the United States government to mitigate global climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic by comparing poor public reactions and governmental administration between the two threats. Using developmental constructs to serve as a framework for assessing public reactions to climate change and pandemics, this thesis implements a content analysis study of American news media from 2000 to 2020; it identifies the rhetoric embedded in communications that has directed the US public’s focus of attention and shaped public opinion on these issues. The results indicate significantly less focus of attention on human health issues than economic issues, and that the risk of climate change and pandemics alike have often been understated. The thesis qualifies the results of this content analysis with supplementary studies on the conditioning factors of this reality, namely political division and bias. By understanding the ways in which the American public has internalized certain biases and applies their values toward public health threats, behaviors and public policy actions that fail to prioritize long-term public health and financial well-being become clearer. Policymakers can adapt to these conditioning factors in order to develop more appropriate strategies for addressing global threats like climate change and pandemics. The thesis examines current approaches to communications and policymaking, acknowledges their shortcomings, and proposes solutions that better interpret the varying reactions to global climate change and pandemics. Several examples are provided of successful and unsuccessful mitigation strategies that incorporate the insights from the analysis of the conditioning factors.

Senior Thesis Content Analysis.R (4 kB)
R code used to interpret content analysis data.

Article Spreadsheet.xlsx (161 kB)
Excel spreadsheet used to track articles and word frequencies, conduct statistical analyses, and create graphs.