Individual Interpretation Matters: The Influence of Policy Narrative Elements on Individual Policy Preference
Adams, Stephanie M.
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Narrative Policy Framework (NPF) provides a framework for analyzing how policy narrative elements can influence an individual’s policy preference in a manner that adheres to traditional scientific standards. At the micro-level, NPF is nascent in empirically testing whether specific narrative elements have an effect in influencing individual opinion formation. The narrative element of causal mechanism, which is embedded in policy narratives to assign responsibility and blame, is an important element that has not yet been examined. This study utilizes an experimental design to analyze which specific type of causal mechanism has a greater influence on individual opinion. As a treatment, four policy narratives were developed based on the two opposing policy preferences expressed in public comments pertaining to a controversial land use issue in Montana. For each policy preferences two narratives were developed; one with an inadvertent and another with an intentional casual mechanism. A survey pre-test measured the dependent variables of policy opinion, while controlling for policy preference, general knowledge, and political ideology. A control narrative was also employed. After exposure to one of the five randomly assigned policy narratives, a post-test was administered to determine changes in policy opinion. A probability sample of college students was employed, with n=778. Both paired t-tests and regression analyses reveal that the intentional casual mechanism has the ability to strongly influence an individual policy preference. The inadvertent causal mechanism influences those who initially hold an opposing policy preference than the one presented in the narrative. The importance of this study for public administrators is that it further illuminates the influence that narrative elements, specifically causal mechanisms, can have on influencing individual opinion.