, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 241-257

The Role of Social Distrust in Risk-Benefit Analysis: A Study of the Siting of a Hazardous Waste Disposal Facility

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Abstract

Distrust of social institutions is becoming an important component of risk communication and policy analysis. To assess the impact of social distrust on decision making, we examine the role of distrust of information sources on the willingness to accept a hazardous waste disposal facility in one's neighborhood. Using a prospective-reference utility model, distrust of information sources is analyzed a possible influence on individual choice in a risk-benefit tradeoff. Using contingent valuation survey data on the siting of a hazardous waste disposal facility, we find that respondents are particularly distrustful of both governmental officials and waste disposal businesses. We find that social distrust increases the perceived risk of a facility and influences the likelihood of accepting a referendum to site a hazardous waste disposal facility. The level of compensation offered in the contingent valuation scenario also is found to influence a respondent's risk perception.