Citizen Perception of Risk Acceptability: Mediating and Moderating Effects in a Nuclear Facility Siting Process
Nam, Jiwon (author)
Berry, Frances Stokes (professor co-directing dissertation)
Brower, Ralph S. (professor co-directing dissertation)
Kim, Daekwan (university representative)
Yang, Kaifeng (committee member)
Florida State University (degree granting institution)
College of Social Sciences and Public Policy (degree granting college)
School of Public Administration and Policy (degree granting department)
The purpose of this research was to identify factors related to citizens' levels of risk acceptability and examine how these factors influenced each other during the policy making process of selecting a site for a nuclear facility in the city of Samchuk, South Korea. The factors used in this study were citizens' perceptions of risk, citizens' perceptions of benefit, regional nuclear stigma, and citizens' attitudes towards government at the local and national level. Few studies have brought these factors together in one model although each variable has been studied separately. We addressed how risk theories developed from other social sciences might be applied to PA research and argued that objective-scientific research in cognitive psychology has been mostly limited to the applications within Beck's Risk Society (1992). In results of testing, first, perceived benefit was shown to significantly affect the acceptability of the risk policy. Second, although local government capacity has no direct influence on acceptability, it had an indirect effect on acceptability, as long as there was perceived economic benefit. From these findings, perceived benefit was revealed to have the only direct effect on the acceptability of the risk policy. Since perceived benefit was the essential factor influencing the acceptability of policy, it was necessary then to explore the factors that were affecting perceived benefit. Also, both perceived risk and local government capacity directly influenced perceived benefit. However, regional nuclear stigma did not directly influence perceived benefit. Instead, regional nuclear stigma indirectly influenced perceived benefit through its relationships with two linking variables: local government capacity and perceived risk. We expected that the level of trust in national government (low vs. high) would affect the relationship between regional nuclear stigma and perceived local government capacity. The results of this study confirmed our expectations: the effect of regional nuclear stigma on perceived local government capacity was different depending on the level of trust in national government. In the past, the relationships between trust in national government and the perceived local government capacity were unacknowledged in nuclear power policy research. In other words, previous studies typically did not distinguish one level of government from another in research on the acceptability of risk and these studies mostly neglected to examine how perceived local government capacity may be functioning in conjunction with trust in the national government. It is one of the key features of this study that citizens' perceptions of government were measured separately according to the level of government (local and national), a distinction that had not been made to date in prior studies of risk policy. The findings of this study showed that regional nuclear stigma had conditional negative impact on perceived local government capacity only if trust in national government was low. Conversely, if the level of trust in national government was high, regional nuclear stigma had no impact on perceived local government capacity. One theoretical implications of this study is that acceptability of policy should be reconsidered in terms of citizens' attitudes to two levels of government. The extant studies in risk analysis of acceptability have not necessarily utilized the full capabilities of a full structural SEM model. This dissertation reported all the required elements: acceptable model fit indices, the evaluation of the constructs representing validity indices and the use of reliability relevant to a full structural SEM model, and the assessment of common method bias (CMB). A lesson that this research taught us is that trust in national government has an important influence on the relationship between regional nuclear stigma and perception of local government capacity. Local residents value local government's capacity when it comes to the acceptability of risk; however, if there is a low level of trust in national government, even the positive perception of local government capacity may have little or no influence on the acceptability of risk. Notwithstanding the contributions of the present study regarding the importance of perceived risk and benefit associated with social, cultural and psychological factors and governmental factors on acceptability of risk, this study is limited in scope to one region in South Korea.
Acceptability of Risk, Benefit Perception, Perceived General Trust in Government, Perceived Local Government's Capability, Regional Stigma Effect of Nuclear, Risk Perception
March 30, 2015.
A Dissertation submitted to the Reubin O'D. Askew School of Public Administration and Policy in partial fulfillment of the Doctor of Philosophy.
Includes bibliographical references.
Frances S. Berry, Professor Co-Directing Dissertation; Ralph S. Brower, Professor Co-Directing Dissertation; Daekwan Kim, University Representative; Kaifeng Yang, Committee Member.
Florida State University
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