Citizens play a critical role in both governance and policy-goal achievement and gaining support from the public also facilitates the authority to achieve policy objectives (Wan, Shen, & Choi, 2017). Moreover, recruiting support from citizens is a way of which a political authority seeks approval from the governed and secures it from potential overthrow by the public. In the case of environmental problems, support from citizens can minimize environmental damages. Previous studies have shown that participation from the public in environmental policymaking can receive higher public policy support (Cuppen, Broekhans, & Enserink, 2012; Luyet et al., 2012; Reed, 2008; Renn, 2006). Gaining support for public policy from citizens will facilitate the government to implement the policy as well as to achieve policy objectives (Rauwald & Moore, 2002). Support for environmental policy also contributes to minimization of harmful effects on and protection of the environment (Rauwald & Moore, 2002; Wan et al., 2017). Thus, policy support is defined as an individual’s perspective or viewpoint to policies that is expressed through one’s attitudes or behaviors (Wan et al., 2017).
Attitudes and behaviors are complex. Regulation, economic instruments and provision of information have all been used in attempts to modify attitudes and/or behaviors (Owens & Driffill, 2008). Furthermore, strategies that provide information about the environmental impact of activities are increasingly seen as effective to encourage conservation behavior (Delmas, Fischlein, & Asensio, 2013). The role of information in behavior change was highlighted by Gardner and Stern (1996), who argued that the greatest degree of behavior change occurs when different strategies are combined. Taking North American as an example, the authors discussed the combination of the solution strategies (e.g., incentives, regulation, information and public engagement). The empirical evidence seems to indicate that important differences in effectiveness according to the type of information provided and the context in which the information is communicated (Delmas and Grant, 2010; Delmas et al., 2010). Yet despite the accumulated experimental evidence, analyses of the effectiveness of such strategies have provided mixed results. On the other hand, there is an expectation that techniques for eliciting and understanding public attitudes and behaviors will become more sophisticated (Owens & Driffill, 2008).
Information strategies are varied. In the field of energy conservation, there have been several types of information used, such as (1) energy feedback, (2) information on problem-solving, (3) pecuniary strategies, and (4) the power of norms. Feedback in the case of information provision is described as “the mechanism that directs attention to a specific goal” (McCalley, 2006). The most common form of feedback is the information of comparison on previous energy usage (e.g., Allcott, 2011). Another information-based strategy is information on problem-solving. This relates to the provision of energy saving tips to the users (Schultz, Nolan, Cialdini, Goldstein, & Griskevicius, 2007) or the audit of home energy (e.g., Nielsen, 1993). The information related to pecuniary strategies informs participants about the financial expenses and/or savings potential associated with their energy usage (e.g., Wilhite & Ling, 1995). The last type of information-based strategies is the power of norms. Norms influence behavior by giving cues as to what is appropriate and desirable. Comparative feedback provides comparisons among users (e.g., Allcott, 2011; Schultz et al., 2007). This is also referred to a motivational strategy (nudge).
In the study of heterogeneous treatment effects and mechanisms in information-based environmental policies, Ferraro & Miranda (2013) used three types of information-based strategies. Those are (1) technical advice, (2) weak social norms that combine the technical advice with pro-social messages, and (3) strong social norms that combine weak social norms with social comparisons of water use among neighbors. The technical advice used refers to the ‘tip sheet’ that contains different ways to reduce water use. The second information treatment is the combination of the ‘tip sheet’ with a personally addressed letter from related officials encouraging water conservation. The third type of information used is the combination of the ‘tip sheet’, the letter from related officials, and a social comparison that compared household’s water use to the median county household use. The main findings showed that in comparison to other treatments, the technical advice has limited impact on water use. Augmenting technical advice with an appeal to pro-social preferences and a social comparison generates a substantially larger reduction. Social comparison messages are the most effective among householders from high-users of water. The heterogeneous treatment effect showed that sites with poor households, many renters, or low water use do not have a large impact from an information campaign that augments information and pro-social language with social comparisons.