Geography & Environment Publications

Risk Perception: A Quantitative Investigation of the Insider/Outsider Dimension of Cultural Theory and Place

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Journal of Risk Research

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This paper examines two hypotheses of risk perception: cultural theory's distinction between insiders and outsiders and the idea that risk perceptions and their determinants differ substantially from one place to the next for the same point‐source hazard. These hypotheses are juxtaposed in cross‐tabulations and logistic regression models with competing explanations of perceived risk in communities living with technological environmental hazards: sound management, benefits, fair facility siting and sociodemographics. The data come from a telephone survey of 455 residents in Swan Hills (n = 173), Fort Assiniboine (n = 171) and Kinuso (n = 111), Alberta, Canada who are all near a large‐scale hazardous waste treatment facility. Considerable support is found for the insider/outsider thesis in terms of the highest ranked information sources and trust to ensure safety. Place differences are clear where, for example, the least facility‐related concern is in Swan Hills (31%) 12 km away, the highest is in Kinuso (81%) 70 km away and moderately high concern is in Fort Assiniboine (62%) which is also 70 km away. This study highlights the importance of fair facility siting, the need to go beyond cultural bias analysis when studying the cultural theory of risk, and suggests further exploration of the notion of tailoring risk communication that is place specific, and emphasizes channels that may be defined as ‘outsider’ and ‘insider’.

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