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SIRKULÆRØKONOMI-Sirkulær økonomi

Understanding societal conflict in consumption reduction (SCORE)

Alternative title: Tiltak for forbuksreduksjon: Polarisering og sosiale konflikter (SCORE)

Awarded: NOK 9.1 mill.

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Project Period:

2023 - 2028


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The last few years have illustrated that environmental policy measures can cause conflicts and provide a basis for political mobilization. In Norway, this has included the uprise of an organization against wind power (Motvind) and a new political party against toll roads (Folkets Parti). When opinions are strong, introducing consumption-reducing measures can lead to unintended and unfortunate polarization. Therefore, knowledge of how new political consumption reduction measures fuel or mitigate conflicts between groups is essential. We know that support from a population majority is not sufficient for successful policy implementation. It is also crucial to avoid strong opposition and mobilization. SCORE will provide knowledge about which groups can expected to react to various mitigation measures, to what extent their reaction can give rise to political mobilization and social conflict and how this can be avoided or mitigated through the design of the measures and communication strategies. The project specifically studies how people react to measures that interfere with individuals' everyday life and freedom of choice. Such measures can bring significant changes in the consumption of goods and services but might also be conflict-generating. SCORE surveys Norwegians' attitudes to consumption-reducing and intervention measures and analyses what influences the attitudes. The project will focus on how people's attitudes are affected by which goods and services are reduced and which forms of regulation are used. The project also examines what underlies strong opposition among certain groups. SCORE combines several research methods, different forms of surveys and qualitative methods such as focus groups. We also analyse the importance of reflecting, discussing with others and getting answers to questions about political measures, partly through experimental surveys and a deliberative opinion poll.

A societal transformation is needed to mitigate climate change and stop biodiversity loss. As new policies are implemented and will affect people’s lives more directly, the potential for public protest, political mobilization, and polarization between groups will increase. If a majority of the public opposes a measure to reduce consumption, it lacks democratic legitimacy, and the political cost of implementation will be high. An additional challenge is that introducing new policies could cause societal polarization and conflict, particularly if the support or opposition towards a policy relates to group affiliations and social identity. The SCORE project is designed to provide new insights into factors influencing the degree of opposition against restrictive consumption reduction measures and the polarizing potential of such measures. There is a relatively good theoretical understanding of the psychological and social mechanisms influencing how people react to climate policy measures. However, we still need more knowledge of how these mechanisms play out in a high-consumption country like Norway and with regard to policy instruments that restrict individuals’ choices as consumers. SCORE uses psychological and sociological perspectives to analyze the opposition against and the polarizing potential of relevant political measures to reduce consumption in Norwegian society. We use experimental surveys and a large-scale deliberative survey to identify how policy design and framing can influence opposition across diverse groups and test how information and deliberation can influence attitudes towards relevant measures. The project will: 1) identify opposition against and the polarizing potential of different measures, 2) give a better understanding of the reasons for opposition and polarization between groups, and 3) investigate experimentally how measures can be designed and communicated in a less provocative way to diverse groups.

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Funding scheme:

SIRKULÆRØKONOMI-Sirkulær økonomi