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Bad news is bad news: Information effects and citizens’ socio-political acceptance of new technologies of electricity transmission

Stadelmann-Steffen, Isabelle
Land use policy 2019 v.81 pp. 531-545
electricity, energy, energy policy, public opinion, renewable energy sources, surveys, technology, uncertainty, Switzerland
This contribution focuses on citizens’ attitudes towards new technologies in electricity transmission and asks how information provision affects citizens’ attitudes towards different technological solutions. It is thereby assumed that the relevance of information is contingent on whether a technology is new or established, as well as on how the information is framed. Electricity transmission is linked to the transition of energy systems from fossil and nuclear to renewable sources. The analyses therefore contribute to the ongoing debate on how to successfully implement new technical solutions in renewable energy policy. Methodologically, the paper uses novel data from a large-scale population survey conducted in Switzerland and tests information effects based on an experimental split ballot design. The results reveal that whereas public opinion on conventional technologies is rather stable, citizens react strongly to information on new technical solutions. This is particularly the case if the information emphasizes negative aspects and uncertainties of the new technologies. Moreover, such negative information can barely be compensated by simultaneous positive information.