Survey on public perceptions of environmental risks
The aim of this project was to understand the differences between public perception and scientific assessment of environmental risks and the main factors influencing the evolution of public perspectives in Europe. The project used a mixed methodology research approach, including a survey of experts and focus groups with members of the public. Overall, the environmental risks seen as being of highest concern by members of the public were similar to the top risks identified by experts. However, consumption habits appeared high in the list of concerns for experts but was generally ranked much... lower across the focus groups. Waste was an issue of concern to public participants that was not ranked highly by experts. Factors that influence lay perceptions of risk include individual identity and background, collective cultural, institutional and socio-political systems, social values and degree of trust in authorities. A number of qualitative characteristics of environmental risks were also found to influence many aspects of lay assessments of environmental risks. These included factors such as scale and severity, proximity and personal control. Discussions in the focus groups showed that many people were using multiple sources of information to develop their understanding of what are often complex environmental issues.