Policy Sciences

, Volume 50, Issue 2, pp 195–215

The narrative properties of ideology: the adversarial turn and climate skepticism in the USA

Research Article

DOI: 10.1007/s11077-016-9274-9

Cite this article as:
Lejano, R.P. & Dodge, J. Policy Sci (2017) 50: 195. doi:10.1007/s11077-016-9274-9


A central concern in policy studies is understanding how multiple, contending groups in society interact, deliberate, and forge agreements over policy issues. Often, public discourse turns from engagement into impasse, as in the fractured politics of climate policy in the USA. Existing theories are unclear about how such an “adversarial turn” develops. We theorize that an important aspect of the adversarial turn is the evolution of a group’s narrative into what can be understood as an ideology, the formation of which is observable through certain textual-linguistic properties. Analysis “of” these narrative properties elucidates the role of narrative in fostering (1) coalescence around a group ideology, and (2) group isolation and isolation of ideological coalitions from others’ influence. By examining a climate skeptical narrative, we demonstrate how to analyze ideological properties of narrative, and illustrate the role of ideological narratives in galvanizing and, subsequently, isolating groups in society. We end the piece with a reflection on further issues suggested by the narrative analysis, such as the possibility that climate skepticism is founded upon a more “genetic” meta-narrative that has roots in social issues far removed from climate, which means efforts at better communicating climate change science may not suffice to support action on climate change.


Climate policy Ideology Policy process 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human DevelopmentNew York UniversityNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Department of Public Administration and PolicyUniversity at Albany, State University of New YorkAlbanyUSA

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