Wednesday, October 5, 2011

My students' perception of risks

For more than 10 years I have collected data from my final year students (n~35) who study "Risk, environment and society". They are provided with a list of 11 environmental issues and asked to rank them according to their perceived relevance. I should point out that the survey is done in week one, before any of the topics are taught. Here is the result (no data is available for 2009):


Several things are obvious. Top runners have always been ozone depletion, climate change, nuclear accidents and nuclear waste. However, climate change has dropped in this year's class to a level last seen in 2003. Water pollution is on the rise, as is population growth.

11 comments:

Werner Krauss said...

good students! Can you tell something from your experience how students' opinions changed after having learned the sociology of risk etc?
I am surprised that ozone depletion (still) makes rank 2. Any idea if this is specific British?

Reiner Grundmann said...

Werner, I always wanted to do a pre/post test design but never got round to doing it.

I have no idea why ozone is so high up. Especially as there is not much prior knowledge about the case. Maybe the students (who are mostly in their early 20s) will have had some exposure to the topic in secondary school.

AnonyMoose said...

What is their concern about population growth? The numbers are rather simple, and there are few factors.

stan said...

This would probably be a lot more interesting if you also included other topics from economics, sociology, and politics (e.g. recession, unemployment, crime, drug abuse, education, war, etc.)

Reiner Grundmann said...

Stan
agreed, but I did not want to change the q's after a few years.

Reiner Grundmann said...

Just noted that deforestation was missing form the graph (not sure why...) I have updated accordingly. It has been an important issue over the years.
What strikes me is the fact that perception do not seem to be shaped directly by media coverage. Climate change rose before the media pushed it in a big way. And Fukushima did not boost nuclear accidents.
How could one explain this?

Werner Krauss said...

@Reiner #6

Maybe this shows the limits of quantitative media analysis?

Reiner Grundmann said...

Werner

do you mean quantitative surveys?

Or do you mean the attempt to predict perceptions by levels of media coverage?

Werner Krauss said...

I mean the fact that students' perception is not shaped by media coverage. Thus, analysis of media coverage gives only partial insight into the popularity of an issue such as deforestation. Students maybe have other forms of communication and information which have greater influence. Right?

Reiner Grundmann said...

Yes, but what are they?

Werner Krauss said...

maybe Avatar and Lord of the Rings -:)