Theoretical Framework

TheoFrameWe ground the proposed research in a straightforward theoretical framework of the factors that influence public acceptance or opposition to infrastructure projects, illustrated in the figure; it represents the three sets of factors that influence public acceptance: those associated with different stakeholders (perhaps having different worldviews), those associated with different kinds of infrastructure (presenting different risks and benefits), and those associated with different communication and participation practices, which is in between.
In this framework, there are two primary sets of factors underlying support or opposition: the needs, wants, concerns, and expectations of local stakeholders on the one hand, and the costs, benefits, risks, and implications of the specific infrastructure project on the other.
But as decades of psychological research have demonstrated, other factors can play an influential role (Devine-Wright, 2009; Ellis, Barry, Robinson, 2007;
Zoellner, Schweizer-Ries & Wemheuer, 2008).
In particular, the processes through which people learn about, discuss, and ultimately participate in deciding about the proposed project can mediate their perceptions of their own wants and needs, the attributes of the infrastructure, and the fit between the two.
There is substantial evidence that negative factors loom larger in people’s minds than positive ones, and so it is more frequent that communication and participation processes lead to a more negative perception of the goodness of fit, and more public opposition, than to positive perceptions and public support.
Moreover people living close to a new power line often feel unwanted infrastructure is being imposed on ‘their’ environment, to the detriment of ‘their’ cherished places and possibly damaging the health of their family members. If this could reduce their property’s value, or harm tourism income to the area, the power line may even be seen as a threat to their own (and their family members’) life chances. In this context, no amount of facts and figures about costs and benefits relating to an abstract notion of ‘the environment’ will change their views.
Indeed framing the question of costs and benefits in these terms may be seen locally as a further imposition by ‘outsiders’, designed to make it impossible for their concerns to be taken seriously.


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