Climate change policies have become priorities for many local governments across many countries. In the United States, however, skepticism of climate science and political motives remains dominant in much of the country. A common challenge for local government stakeholders in the US is to frame climate policies in terms that are acceptable to citizens in order to overcome politically polarized inaction. We examine why some communities are successful at framing policies as climate change while others are not. We utilize data from a 2012 survey of 232 cities across the US Great Plains region that asks which of 14 mitigation policies and 14 adaptation policies have been adopted within the past decade, and participants identified those policies that were specifically framed as climate change. We test the influence of factors from three clusters of variables: the policy environment, the attitude of local government officials, and the community atmosphere toward climate change, on the propensity to frame climate policies. Results suggest local leadership is sufficient for framing one policy, but community atmosphere eclipses government attitudes and becomes the driving factor in cities where two or more climate policies are explicitly framed as such.