Date of Graduation

5-2015

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Political Science (MA)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Political Science

Advisor

Geoboo Song

Committee Member

Brinck Kerr

Second Committee Member

Andrew Dowdle

Keywords

Social sciences; Applied sciences; Cultural theory; Electricity; Energy policy; Transmission lines

Abstract

Following a proposal for the installation of high voltage power lines in northwest Arkansas, a controversial policy debate emerged. Proponents of the transmission line argue that such an installation is inevitable and necessary to efficiently and reliably support the identified electric load in the region. Opponents claim that the lines will degrade the natural environment and hamper the tourism-based local economy in affected regions, notably in Ozark Mountain areas. This study seeks to understand how local policy elites perceive the benefits and risks associated with proposed transmission lines, which is a critical step in comprehending the formation and changes of related government policies. First, based upon the dual process theory of judgment, this study systematically investigates the triadic relationships between (a) more profound personal value predispositions, (b) affects and feelings, and (c) perceived benefits and risks related to the proposed installation of high voltage power lines among local policy elites in the state of Arkansas. Next, this study focuses more specifically on the role of value predispositions, specific emotional dimensions of affect heuristics, and perceptions pertaining to high voltage power line risks and benefits. Using original data collected from a statewide Internet survey of 420 local leaders and key policymakers about their opinions on the related issues, other factors claimed by previous literature, including trust, knowledge level, and demographic characteristics are considered. Analytical results suggest that grid-group cultural predispositions, as deeply held core values within local policy elites' individual belief systems, both directly and indirectly - through affective feelings - shape perceived utility associated with the installation of high voltage power lines. Recognizing that risk perceptions factor into policy decisions, some practical considerations for better designing policy addressing controversial issues of this nature.

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