Several countries are witnessing increasing levels of local opposition to wind energy projects. This is in contrast to opinion polls often showing that a large majority of the population is supportive of low-carbon policies, including deployment of wind energy. At the same time, project developers and policymakers are realising that social acceptance has an emotional component, but struggle to find ways to manage this phenomenon. We surveyed a representative sample of Swiss residents (n = 1111) using affective imagery, asking respondents to list their spontaneous associations with wind power and provide an affective evaluation of each association. We find a strong correlation between the affective imagery and respondents’ likelihood to express concern about local wind projects, suggesting that affect matters in the formation of attitudes towards local wind energy projects. An in-depth analysis of the sequencing of affective imagery highlights that mild opponents have conflicting feelings about wind energy, and that “second thoughts” appear to tip the balance towards opposition for them. The study further reveals that important differences exist between mild and strong opponents, providing a basis for the segmentation of target groups in managing processes of social acceptance.
Julia Cousse, Rolf Wüstenhagen, Nina Schneider
24 Jun 2020