Public perception of environmental issues across socioeconomic characteristics: A survey study inWujin, China


In developing countries, there is controversy over the correct perception regarding environmental and developmental issues. Few studies have examined the perception of low-income nationals in regards to social and environmental issues. This paper looks at the relationship between socio-demographic factors and the groups’ perceived priority regarding environmental and social issues in Wujin County. The results indicated that most residents, specifically the young, government employed and the urban community consider environmental issues to be serious, especially in relation to air pollution and water pollution. Furthermore, many residents feel it is important to rank environmental problems that are related to other social and economic issues, and that environmental protection must be set as a priority in Wujin County. Compared to social issues, environmental concern was greater among the young, government employed, and the urban community, because of their higher education and affluence. In addition, 66.2% of residents consider environmental protection to be more important than economic development. Thus, environmental protection must be set as a high priority in Wujin County, in order to face the many social and environmental challenges inherent in development.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  1. 1.

    White M J, Hunter L M. Public Perception of Environmental Issues in a Developing Setting. Institute of Behavioral Science, Working Paper (EB2005-0003). 2005

  2. 2.

    Mitchell J K. Hazard perception studies: Convergent concerns and divergent approaches during the past decade. In: Saarinen T F, Seamom D, Sell J L, eds. Environmental Perception and Behavior: An Inventory and prospect Department of Geography. Chicago: The University of Chicago, 1984, 38–39

    Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Curran S, Kumar A, Lutz W, Williams M. Interactions between coastal and marine ecosystems and human population systems: Perspectives on how consumption mediates this interaction. Ambio, 2002, 31: 264–268

    Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    National Research Council (NRC). Global Environmental Change: Research Pathways for the Next Decade. Washington DC: National Academies Press, 1999

    Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Dunlap R E. Trends in Public Opinion Toward Environmental Issues: 1965–1990. Washington DC: Taylor and Francis, Inc., 1992

    Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Mertig A G, Dunlap R E, Morrison D E. The environmental movement in the United States. In: Dunlap R E, Michelson W, eds. Handbook of Environmental Sociology. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2002, 448–481

    Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Jacob C T, Azariah J. Environmental perception of textile industrial pollution in Tiruppur, India. Journal of Asian and International Bioethics, 1997, 7: 162–165

    Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Hunter L M. Household Strategies in the Face of Resource Scarcity: Are They Associated with Development Priorities. Working paper of Institute of Behavioral Science, Research Program on Environment and Behavior, EB2004-0001. 2004

  9. 9.

    Kempton W M, Boster J S, Hartley J A. Environmental Values in American Culture. Boston: MIT Press, 1995

    Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Stern P C, Dietz T. The value basis of environmental concern. Journal of Social Issues, 1994, 50: 65–84

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Dunlap R E, Mertig A G. Global concern for the environment: Is affluence a prerequisite? Journal of Social Issues, 1995, 51: 121–137

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Rinzin C, Vermeulen W J, Glasbergen P. Public perceptions of Bhutan’s approach to sustainable development in practice. Sustainable Development, 2007, 15: 52–68

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Inglehart R. Public support for environmental protection: Objective problems and subjective values in 43 societies. Political Science & Politics, 1995, 28: 57–72

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Dunlap R E, York R. The globalization of environmental concern and the limits of the post-materialist values explanation: Evidence from four multi-national surveys. Sociological Quarterly, 2008, 49(3): 529–563

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Brechin S R, Kempton W. Global environmentalism: A challenge to the poastmaterialsm thesis? Social Science Quarterly, 1994, 75 (2): 245–269

    Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Dunlap R E, Gallup G H, Gallup A. Of global concern: Results of the health of the planet survey. Environment, 1993, 35: 33–39

    Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Brechin S. Objective problems, subjective values, and global environmentalism: Evaluating the post-materialist argument and challenging a new explanation. Social Science Quarterly, 1999, 80: 793–811

    Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Jones R E, Dunlap R E. The social bases of environmental concern: Have they changed over time? Rural Sociology, 1992, 57: 28–47

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Klineberg S, McKeever L M, Rothenbach B. Demographic predictors of environmental concern: It does make a difference how it’s measured. Social Science Quarterly, 1998, 79 (4): 734–753

    Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Dunlap R E, Xiao C, McCright A M. Measuring endorsement of the new ecological paradigm: A revised NEP scale. Journal of Social Issues, 2001, 56 (3): 425–442

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. 21.

    Hunter LM, Johnson A, Hatch A. Cross-national gender variation in environmental behaviors. Social Science Quarterly, 2004, 85: 677–694

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    Zelezny L C, Chua P, Aldrich C. Elaborating on gender differences in environmentalism. Journal of Social Issues, 2000, 56: 443–457

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    Fransson N, Garling T. Environmental concern: Conceptual definitions, measurement methods, and research findings. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 1999, 19: 369–382

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    Biel A, Nilsson A. Religious values and environmental concern: Harmony and detachment. Social Science Quarterly, 2005, 86: 178–191

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. 25.

    High C, Shackleton C M. The comparative value of wild and domestic plants in home gardens of a south african rural village. Agroforestry Systems, 2000, 48 (2): 141–156

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. 26.

    Twine W, Moshe D, Netshiluvhi T, Siphugu V. Consumption and direct-use values of savanna bio-resources used by rural households in Mametja, a semi-arid area of Limpopo Province, South Africa. South African Journal of Science, 2003, 99 (9): 467–473

    Google Scholar 

  27. 27.

    Wujin Statistic Bureau. Wujin Statistical Yearbook, 2005 (in Chinese)

  28. 28.

    Wujin Environmental Protection Bureau (WEPB). Environmental Quality Report of Wujin County, 2005 (in Chinese).

  29. 29.

    Franz X B, Michel W. Environmental perception of rural and urban pupils. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 1997, 17: 111–122

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. 30.

    Eagly A H, Kulesa P. Attitudes, attitude structure, and resistance to change: Implications for persuasion on environmental issues. In: Bazerman M H, ed. Environment, EtIlice, and Behavior: The Psychology of Environmental Valuation and Degradation. San Francisco: New Lexington Press, 1997

    Google Scholar 

  31. 31.

    McStay J R, Dunlap R E. Male-female differences in concern for environmental quality. International Journal of Women’s Studies, 1993, 6: 291–301

    Google Scholar 

  32. 32.

    Momsen J H. Gender differences in environmental concern and perception. The Journal of Geography, 2000, 99: 47–56

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. 33.

    Anderson B A, Romani J H, Phillips H, Wentzel M, Tlabela K. Exploring environmental perceptions, behaviors and awareness: Water and water pollution in South Africa. Population & Environment, 2007, 3 (3): 133–161

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. 34.

    Brody S D, Highfield W, Alston L. Dose location matter? Measuring environmental perceptions of creeks in two San Antonio watersheds. Environment and Behavior, 2004, 36: 229–250

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Bing Zhang.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Bi, J., Zhang, Y. & Zhang, B. Public perception of environmental issues across socioeconomic characteristics: A survey study inWujin, China. Front. Environ. Sci. Eng. China 4, 361–372 (2010).

Download citation


  • socio-economic characteristics
  • environmental perception
  • sustainable development
  • policy making