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Public Perceptions of Health Risks from Polluted Coastal Bathing Waters: A Mixed Methodological Analysis Using Cultural Theory

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This article explores public perceptions of, and attitudes toward, possible health risks from polluted coastal bathing waters in the United Kingdom. Cultural theory is applied in the present analysis, using a mixed methodology of quantitative analysis from interviews and qualitative interpretation of focus group discussions to provide insights into how different cultural solidarities view a number of issues. These include risks to health; attitudes toward regulation; public consultation and information provision; and trust, blame, and accountability applied to different stakeholders in the bathing-water-quality debate. The results show that individuals' standpoints can be represented on a number of dimensions, consistent with cultural theory, including perceptions of power and authority, beliefs in the efficacy of collective action, and acceptance or rejection of incremental change as opposed to radical solutions. The discussion focuses both on methodological and substantive issues related to the use of cultural theory as a research tool, and on policy recommendations arising from this research.

Keywords: Risk perception; bathing water quality; cultural theory; mixed methodology; pollution control policy

Document Type: Original Article


Affiliations: Center for Social and Economic Research on the Global Environment, University of East Anglia, Norwich and University College, London, UK.

Publication date: 2000-10-01

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