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

Raul P. Lejano, Jennifer Dodge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)195-215
Number of pages21
JournalPolicy Sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2017


  • Climate policy
  • Ideology
  • Policy process

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences
  • Public Administration
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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