- Risk policies and risk perceptions: a comparative study of environmental health risk policy and perception in six European countries
- Journal of Risk Research
- Volume | Issue number
- 17 | 4
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR)
This paper explores the influence that health risk policies have on the citizens’ perceptions of those health risks. Previously, detailed mixed methods research revealed that noise annoyance policies shaped noise perception. This idea is now applied to nine different environmental health risks in six European countries. When attention is given to a risk in policy, peoples’ concerns about that risk are assumed to be amplified or shaped. To assess this hypothesis, the research employs a constructionist ‘resonance’ model. It compares how risks are ranked on the policy agenda with how citizens rank the risks in terms of the relative threat they pose to individuals’ health when assessed alongside other threats. The relationship between policy and perception is explored with a mixed methods approach comprising survey data about risk perception and interview data on national policy from six countries. The survey asked people to rank nine risks according to their own priorities (n = 5964). In interviews with experts, the policy priorities concerning the same risks were assessed (n = 35). Citizens’ trust towards health risk authorities, media use and recent incidents was assessed as mediators between policy and perception. On an aggregate level, the expected relationship cannot be confirmed. At a lower level, meaningful relationships can be identified between policy and perception. This study shows correlations between EU policy and citizens’ priorities, and EU policy appears highly relevant to the national risk policy. The relationship between policy and perception does appear to be pertinent to some risks in some countries. Therefore, analyses of the construction of risk need to be case-sensitive. Aggregate survey data can only partly illuminate the phenomenon of interest in this article. New longitudinal research seeks further insight into the range of factors that are relevant to understanding if, how and when policy affects perception.
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