86 Expert and General Public Perceptions of Risks: PERPLEX Study (PSAM-0076)
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What are the differences in risk perception between the general public and the experts? The PERPLEX study considers two issues: the first compares the general publics' and experts' perceptions of 27 risks, and the second considers the experts' perception regarding their daily activities and risk knowledge.
In late October 2004, a survey was conducted on a sample of 2000 people.
Although the available studies are not generally based on methodological foundations sound enough to use for drawing robust conclusions, they nevertheless provide lines of research for conducting the PERPLEX study, the only French experiment in such a wide scope in terms of individuals questioned and the number of people involved.
The Perplex study has two major aims:
1. To compare the perception of risks by members of the general public and by people from agencies working in areas of risks.
2. To test the awareness of experts and the level of uniformity in their responses to risk, depending on how much they are affected by their line of work, within their organisation, their involvement in a scientific project, their approval of their organisation's project or the nature of the risk that their organisation has to face directly or indirectly.
Those studied in the PERPLEX study are the general public (1000 persons representing the French population) and 1000 experts. The experts work in five agencies: The missions of four of the agencies are to anticipate, monitor, alert, act, and assess different types of risks (in the fields of chemistry, nuclear industry, chemical domain, health monitoring and care) and one institution is an agronomy research body involved in environmental and health issues.
The risk questionnaire is the same for all the institutes. It is based on the IRSN's annual BAROMETRE operation questionnaire with analysis of 27 risks. Risk and its governance perception are addressed by a set of 47 questions. Some questions centred on:
The perceived seriousness of the risk is measured using the question: In each of the situations below, do you consider that the risks for the French in general are: almost nil; low; average; high or very high?
Confidence in the authorities: Do you have confidence in the measures taken by the French authorities to protect the public in the following situations: (Replies varied in degree between “No confidence” to “Total confidence”)
Truthfulness of the information given about these risks: For each of the situations below, do you believe that you were told the truth about the dangers they represented for the population? Replies varied in degree between: “No, not at all” to “Yes, definitely”.
The results will be presented in this paper.