Probing Narrative Cognition: How Do Policy Elites and the General Public Internalize Competing Policy Narratives on Hydraulic Fracturing?
38 Pages Posted: 1 Jan 2020
Date Written: December 4, 2019
The use of hydraulic fracturing (HF) technologies to extract oil and gas in the United States has sparked contentious policy debates. Constituting these debates, competing policy narratives position HF as either a threat to the environment or as an opportunity to realize economic gain. This paper examines how policy elites and the general public cognitively internalize competing HF policy narratives, comparing their cognitive patterns of semantic narrative elements. Based on original survey data, structural topic modeling (STM) is applied to extract latent topics from open-ended text responses and to unpack relationships between narrative cognition and theory-driven correlates including socially constructed worldviews, party identity, trust, and demographic characteristics. We find that worldviews guide the cognitive selection of narrative elements for both policy elites and members of the general public in similar but distinct ways. We then discuss how our findings contribute to the advancement of the Narrative Policy Framework (NPF) and our understanding of the policy process more generally, as well as highlight practical and methodological implications of the study.
Keywords: Narrative Policy Framework, Cultural Theory, Hydraulic Fracturing, Public Opinion, Elite Decision-making
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