Attitudes and Risk Perceptions of Stakeholders in a Nuclear Waste Siting Issue
Stakeholders are often regarded as a critically important group in such issues as the siting of nuclear facilities. In this article, stakeholders were identified on the basis of self-reported activities with regard to a nuclear waste siting issue under debate in four communities. Data were obtained in an extensive mailed survey from a total of 2,548 respondents, approximately an equal number from each community. The overall response rate was 43.9%. Some of the results and telephone interviews with a sample of the nonrespondents indicated that the data are reasonably representative of the respective populations. Stakeholder activities were measured by 20 questions and combined with an index of stakeholder activity level, dichotomized at the 90th percentile. Stakeholders were found to have a higher level of education than others, but otherwise they did not differ in demographics. They did not tend to see risks in general as high, but were quite interested and involved in the nuclear waste siting issue. The stakeholder activity level correlated with risk perception and attitudes in the waste siting issue, but with different signs for those who were for and those who were opposed: stakeholders of both types had more extreme views than others, but in different directions. In addition, stakeholder opponents were much more likely to strongly espouse extreme statements regarding the project than were supporters who also were stakeholders. Implications for risk management and communication are discussed.