Analysing the IRSN Risk Perception Barometer over the 1997 — 2004 Period (PSAM-0077)


Since the beginning of 1986, IRSN conducts a yearly survey designed to understand how the French population perceives risk: the IRSN barometer (ref 1,2). In this survey, the society and environmental concerns are ranked. The main part of the survey concerns 27 risks which are investigated from three different angles:

• The perceived seriousness of the risk

• Confidence in the authorities

• Truthfulness of the information given about these risks —

The 27 risks include situations widely covered by the media (traffic accidents, smoking, alcohol, etc.), as well as situations of which the public can be unaware (such as radon in homes) and situations perceived as low risk (X-rays, noise, etc.). The list includes nuclear power plants, nuclear waste storage, Chernobyl pollution impacts, chemical industries, chemical waste, transportation of hazardous chemicals, etc

In late October 2004, 1008 people answered the survey, a representative sample of the French population according to the strata and quota sampling method. Statistical analysis of the answers highlighted five groups of risks in relation with a logic of perception of the French people. The same analysis was applied to the previous six surveys undertaken between 1997 and 2002. Risk categories identified in 2004 also globally explain how risks were perceived in previous years. On a background of global stability, some situations show interesting evolutions.

To conclude, the risk perceptions of the French population are not basically versatile. Their perception logic is based on the perceived seriousness of the risk, on their “trust in the protective measures taken by the French authorities” and on the perceived credibility of information. In other words, picturing the population's risk perception solely on the basis of the perceived seriousness of risks would produce one-dimensional results and fail to include the depth of analysis provided by such factors as public's trust in authorities and credibility of information.

  • Summary/Abstract
  • The IRSN Barometer of Risk Perceptions
  • The Results in the 2004 Barometer for Societal and Environmental Concerns
  • Perception of Risk Situations: Situations Ranked According to Perceived Risk, Confidence in the Authorities and Truth Told
  • Comparison with the Previous Results
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography

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