Date Presented

Spring 4-1-2007

Document Type


Access Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Political Science

First Advisor

Dr. Walton

Second Advisor

Dr. Gray

Third Advisor

Dr. Prinzinger


This project, “Perceptions About the Causes and Effects of Increasing Fuel Prices,” seeks to understand the attitudes of major newspaper editorials concerning the increase of fuel prices. A content analysis of various newspaper editorials from the New York Times, Washington Times, Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post was conducted to gain an understanding of the attitudes and predictions these writers put forth concerning the increase in the price of fuel. Some of the areas this study focused on included what the writer’s attitude was, what were the attributions of and consequences of increased prices, and what was the main thesis of the editorials. Over the last few years, especially the last summer, many of my friends, family, and acquaintances had to make major changes to their driving and spending habits because of increasing fuel costs and their attitudes concerning them were wide-ranging. In one case, a college junior was no longer able to afford enough gasoline to drive to her job. How was she supposed to earn enough money to cover tuition now? Many drivers I have discussed this with were angry, if not furious, at the steady increases. They often complained about oil companies, refineries, and dealers inflating the prices or deliberately withholding supplies to increase their profits. Even when prices decreased for times they still maintained that, in the long run, oil companies were trying to manipulate the economic laws of supply and demand to enrich themselves. Some also chose to place some of the blame on the government saying that the U.S. government and policy makers had failed to adequately regulate fuel companies and dealers. A few, though not as many, chose to blame U.S. consumers for demanding too much fuel. If Americans cut back on their consumption they claimed price levels would be alleviated. However, other consumers went in the opposite direction and were more easy-going.

Though inconvenienced by the price increases they were calmer and collected, sometimes even laughing about it. Most of them did not place blame on any given group but simply chalked the increases up to the laws of supply and demand. Even those who did place blame on oil companies or the government did not get nearly as worked up as the preceding group. There were also consumers in-between these two groups who were upset over the increases but not really angry. They only occasionally voiced how much they did not like the increases and while they did not make light of the situation they did not try to affix blame or became noticeably angry or upset. Each consumer also had methods of dealing with the new increases. Two or three of my family members who have had to buy new cars over the past five of years have purchased hybrid cars. One or two relatives traded in the gas-only cars in exchange for hybrids. Many of my friends have bought smaller and more fuel-efficient cars or have at least tried to find various ways of getting better gas mileage out of cars they already own. Those family and friends who live in states where gasoline costs relatively more tend to have a somewhat angrier attitude about the increases and take more measures to compensate for them than those who live where fuel is cheaper. By performing a content analysis on editorials from major newspapers(located in the northeastern United States) that focused on the effects of highly volatile gas prices, a better understanding can be gained of how American pubic opinion may be led with respect to rationalizations of this market. Sociological theory will be employed to understand the varied positions journalists take in their editorial forums.