Fracking Bad Guys: Narrative Character Affect in Public Opinion About Hydraulic Fracturing
43 Pages Posted: 11 Sep 2017
Date Written: September 6, 2017
Recent growth in unconventional oil and gas development is controversial, fueling an ongoing U.S. policy debate. Central to these discussions is hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking’, a well-stimulation technique that has become synonymous with unconventional oil and gas extraction methods. This research applies Narrative Policy Framework (NPF) to explore how culturally-nuanced narratives shape individuals’ policy preferences toward fracking regulations. A census-balanced internet panel (n=1,145) is used to conduct a survey experiment where participants are randomly assigned to four groups and exposed to information regarding fracking practices. The control group receives only a baseline fact list (e.g., benefits and costs associated with fracking) while three treatment groups are exposed to one of three culturally distinct narratives (e.g., egalitarian narrative, hierarch narrative, and individualist narrative). The results of causal mediation analysis suggest that while there is no direct effect of the narrative treatments on the formation of individuals’ fracking policy preferences, culturally nuanced narratives do influence the general public’s attitudes on fracking policies indirectly through their effects on individuals’ reactions towards villain characters presented in the narratives. These findings demonstrate a complex cognitive interplay between narrative communication and policy preference formation among the American public.
Keywords: Narrative Policy Framework, hydraulic fracturing, Cultural Theory, villain
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