Policy Sciences

, Volume 52, Issue 1, pp 21–42 | Cite as

From Three Mile Island to Fukushima: the impact of analogy on attitudes toward nuclear power

  • Jessica E. BoscarinoEmail author
Research Article


Policy scholars are paying increasing attention to the role of language in policy debates, with particular emphasis on narratives. Policy narratives serve as strategic tools that, among other things, can shift public opinion in favor of policy preferences. One narrative element that has received little attention thus far from policy scholars is analogy, though analogies frequently appear in policy stories. This study applies insights on analogical reasoning from the fields of cognitive and political psychology to the literature on policy narrative. I argue that analogies are best classified as a component of the story’s plotline, and explore the potential micro-level impacts of analogies on policy attitudes. Using the Narrative Policy Framework, I examine the empirical effects of exposure to analogy on public opinion related to nuclear power using data from a national-level survey of 2544 US adults conducted by the Marist Poll. In a split-sample design, respondents were exposed to narrative prompts that discussed nuclear power generally or with reference to past accidents at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and/or Fukushima, and then asked about their views on nuclear energy. The results indicate that the effects of analogizing are limited, as participants that hear negative analogies do not have attitudes that are significantly more negative toward nuclear power. However, there are interesting interaction effects between analogy exposure and partisanship, suggesting the existence of partisan entrenchment on the issue.


Policy narratives Narrative Policy Framework Analogy Nuclear power 


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceMarist CollegePoughkeepsieUSA

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