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Public Perception of Industrial Risks: A Free-Response Approach

  • Timothy C. Earle
  • Michael K. Lindell
Part of the Advances in Risk Analysis book series (AIRA, volume 2)

Abstract

Free-response survey items were used to study industrial risk perception with six groups of respondents: Nuclear Engineers, Chemical Engineers, Science Writers, and two groups selected from the general public. Several questionnaire items referred to “the closest hazardous facility that concerns you.” Because of the free-response format, respondents were able to nominate any industrial facility. About half of the respondents identified a hazardous facility within ten miles; appropriately, respondents selected on the basis of living near to hazardous facilities (one of the general public groups) reported hazardous facilities closer to them than did the other groups. The most frequently identified facility was a Nuclear Power Plant; this was true for all groups except the Nuclear Engineers. Pollution and Leak of Radioactive Materials were the most frequently mentioned risks. Nuclear Power Plants were strongly differentiated from other facilities by respondents, and a Leak of Radioactive Material from a Nuclear Power Plant was the most frequently mentioned exposure path. Other questionnaire items dealt with respondents’ views of two specific facilities, a Toxic Chemical Disposal Facility and a Nuclear Waste Disposal Facility. Respondents who were either physically closer to or professionally identified with hazardous facilities were distinguished from others by lower levels of concern about adverse effects, particularly health effects. This was coupled, however, with higher levels of concern for effects to specific groups of living persons, particularly workers at hazardous facilities. The discussion of these results is focused on three significant risk perception problems. First, public perception of industrial risks, with emphasis on Nuclear Power and Nuclear Waste Disposal. Second, the concern (or lack of it) of persons living today for persons living in future generations. Third, the appropriate use and interpretation of free- and fixed-response items in survey research.

Keywords

Nuclear Power Plant Risk Perception Future Generation Public Perception Industrial Facility 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Timothy C. Earle
    • 1
  • Michael K. Lindell
    • 1
  1. 1.Battelle Human Affairs Research CentersSeattleUSA

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