Why Stories are Powerful Spurs to Political Action

Frederick W. Mayer
Professor of Public Policy, Political Science, and Environment, Sanford School, Duke University

Great leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr., tell stories rather than recite statistics. Humans find meaning in narratives, Mayer explains, so organizers, political leaders, coaches, and generals can use dramatic stories to highlight a challenge and inspire joint action to surmount it.

Mayer’s Key Findings brief encapsulates the major findings of his fascinating new book, Narrative Politics: Stories and Collective Action. The uses of stories in political disputes about global warming and climate science are discussed in Mayer’s earlier SSN brief on “Competing Media Stories and U.S. Public Opinion on Climate Change.”

Frederick Mayer pursues a wide-ranging program of research and teaching focusing on the implications of economic globalization for workers and the environment as well as the politics of climate change and the uses of stories in political mobilization. He has collaborated in all of these areas with international agencies, members of Congress, and nonprofit organizations.