Panel Paper: Fracking Bad Guys: Narrative Character Affect in Public Opinion about Hydraulic Fracturing

Friday, November 3, 2017
Addams (Hyatt Regency Chicago)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Chad Zanocco1, Geoboo Song2 and Michael Jones1, (1)Oregon State University, (2)University of Arkansas

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 production. This research applies Narrative Policy Framework (NPF) to explore how narrative communication structures shape perceptions and influence policies related to fracking. 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 fracking information. All groups receive a baseline fact list and then three groups are treated with culturally nuanced narratives, leaving the final group as a control. We find that narrative treatments have an effect on reactions towards characters presented in narratives, but this relationship is significant for only characters that are cast as villains. While there is no direct narrative treatment effect for fracking policy preferences, our analysis suggests that reactions to villains mediate this effect. These findings demonstrate a complex interplay between narrative communication and policy preferences that has heterogeneous or competing effects.