Energy transitions and mass publics: Manipulating public perception and ideological entrenchment in Japanese nuclear power policy

Scott Victor Valentine, Benjamin K. Sovacool

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


How can leaders successfully craft energy or climate policy to support an initiative that citizens oppose? This paper considers this challenge from a change management perspective applied to public governance. It first draws on change management theory to develop a framework for altering mass public perspectives. The framework consists of four phases: i) problematizing the issue, ii) laying a foundation for change, iii) reshaping perspectives, and iv) entrenching support. Drawing from the insights gleaned from the establishment of Japan's nuclear power program, the paper further argues that in order to succeed in mass perceptual change, policymakers must first clearly understand the contextual environment in which the policy is being formulated. In doing so, policymakers will be better able to customize policy design to appeal to stakeholder perceptions and sentiments. Although the context of this paper is the perceptual modification of public opinion to support nuclear power, the authors suggest that the same framework can be applied to perceptual modification of any policy that the general public might be opposed to. In the energy sector, this could apply to fostering a transition to renewable energy as easily as it applies to nurturing nuclear power development. However, the Japanese case puts forth a caveat in this regard, there is evidence that the mindsets of the Japanese policymakers were predisposed to advocacy of nuclear power and once policymakers commit to a technological trajectory, it is hard to engender a change of course. Therefore, the article concludes by speculating on how the perceptions of policymakers might be similarly altered through efforts from the alternative energy sector to foster policy change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)295-304
Number of pages10
JournalRenewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2019
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment


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