The impact of goal based communication on policy acceptance

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


According to the International Energy Agency about 14% of greenhouse gases (GHG) are generated by the transportation sector globally and this share is estimated to increase to 50% by 2030. At the same time consumption of mobility is continuously increasing, making it one of the most crucial sectors to focus on for sustainable consumption. Several measures and policies are being implemented to reduce these GHG emissions. However it is not enough to implement policies; they also need to be accepted by the public in order to be successful. In order to develop effective policy communication more understanding about how individuals perceive and react to communicated messages is important. It is also important to understand how messages interact with the goals and motivations of the individual. Theoretically, one way to understand individual support of policy measures may be through Goal Framing Theory (GFT). GFT has been proposed as a framework detailing three goals that individuals strive for: gain, normative, and hedonic. A hedonic goal indicates that the individual will focus on what feels good or what might make the individual feel good in the future. Gain goals make individuals pay attention to changes that regard personal resources, such as money, status and time. Finally, a normative goal frame makes the individual engage in behaviors that is perceived to be the right thing to do. These three (often conflicting) goals impact attention to information and what behavioral measures that are available to individuals. The focal goal for the individual has the largest influence on the individual while other goals may increase in strength if in accordance with the focal goal, or decrease in importance if in conflict with the focal goal. The purpose of this ongoing study is to experimentally evaluate whether messages designed based on GFT positively impact the acceptance of introducing different environmental policies. Therefore we perform several experimental studies that have two specific components: 1) a fictional scenario about a character that drives a car to work every day and now has received word that that city has decided to introduce a congestion tax, and 2) a specific goal based communication effort in the form of a letter from the city that motivates why this action has been taken, designed along the lines of (one of) the three goals of the GFT. The fictional scenario was the same for all participants, while the letter was varied so that each participant received a message that emphasized one of the three goals. The participants that took part in these studies were randomly allocated to one of the three groups, or to a control group that received only the scenario. The results point to different acceptance rates for different policies. However, all groups were statistically more likely to accept a the policy than the control group, indicating a positive effect of all three goal related messages (with some differences). This implies that goal-related communication is more effective than general policy communication under certain conditions.


External organisations
  • Umeå University
  • University of Gothenburg
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Business Administration
  • Media and Communications


  • Sustainable consumption, Policy acceptance, Electric Vehicles
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Jun 13
Publication categoryResearch
Event24h Annual International Sustainable Development Research Society Conference (ISDRS 2018): Actions for a Sustainable World: from theory to practice - University of Messina, Messina, Italy
Duration: 2018 Jun 132018 Jun 15


Conference24h Annual International Sustainable Development Research Society Conference (ISDRS 2018)