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Mobilisation, framing and territorial public opinion.: Concerning a project to build a VHV line in the Lot region of France.

Abstract : This article looks at someone who is often omitted from works on framing, despite being of central importance therein: the ordinary citizen. When presenting their social construction of reality (framing), it is ordinary citizens that social movements are targeting; yet more often than not, said citizens are deemed to have the most limited of choices - either to demonstrate assent by joining a movement, or to demonstrate indifference by doing nothing at all. By structuring theoretical reflection around public opinion and innovative empirical devices (experimental survey using open-ended questions), this work aims to show how confronting discursive conceptions of public opinion with framing theory helps to bring the question of publics and of public opinion within the scope of the sociology of collective action. With this objective in mind, we base ourselves upon the empirical study of the different “publics” brought into being by a local controversy (a project to build a VHV electricity line in the Lot region of France) through analysis of the spiel or frames produced through collective action. In particular, the study shows that it is possible to identify different publics in accordance with these framings, and that they vary in part according to the level of concernment (measured levels of interest in and information on the controversy) and select (or are selected by) distinct social properties. These observations are important when using surveys to analyse public opinion. The use of experimental surveys that are based upon sample construction (localised in this case) and sequences of open and closed questions constitutes an attempt to take two contexts into account : a) there is no “public opinion” in the sense of any single substantial entity; there are “different publics” which have come about through controversy and which are connected within a public arena. They thus form a public opinion which is not incorporated, but which is instead articulated and stabilised within a public discourse; b) it is the framing operations that are carried out on different “stages” (mobilisation, negotiation, media, public debate, etc.) that create these different publics. Textual analysis of the open-ended questions allows us to recapture the power of these frames and to unpackage aggregated opinion into a closed “yes” or “no” question. It is then possible to reconstruct the different figures of the public and the “vocabularies of motives” which give them their coherency.
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Mathieu Brugidou, Caroline Escoffier. Mobilisation, framing and territorial public opinion.: Concerning a project to build a VHV line in the Lot region of France.. VIII ème Congrès de l'Association Française de Science Politique, Sep 2005, Lyon, France. ⟨halshs-00493283⟩

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