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Friday 17th July, 09:00 - 10:30 Room: N-131

Using Surveys to Study the Environment

Convenor Dr Malcolm Fairbrother (University of Bristol )
Coordinator 1Dr Kerry Ard (Ohio State University)

Session Details

Effective public policies and regulations have begun to mitigate many environmental problems globally, but many problems remain severe (e.g., urban air pollution) or are getting worse (greenhouse gas emissions, species extinctions). There is an urgent need for research on solutions to such problems, and in this regard surveys have much to offer. Existing research has used health surveys to show that exposure to environmental toxins is an important determinant of human health outcomes. Political researchers have shown how public opinion has often shaped key environmental policy outcomes. Building on previous studies of these kinds, this session welcomes papers related to survey research on environmental topics broadly defined. Papers may be either substantive or methodological. Substantively, papers should address topics including but not limited to: the measurement of environmentally consequential behaviours and lifestyles; public concern about environmental problems; political attitudes relevant to environmental protection; or the impacts of pollution on human health and well-being (including stress and mental health). What are the correlates of less environmentally damaging behaviours, greater environmental concern, more pro-environmental attitudes, or greater exposure to environmental toxins? Papers may use datasets that are comparative or single-nation, cross-sectional or longitudinal, but should all make an important contribution to some substantive field of research relevant to the natural environment. For example, how does exposure to environmental toxins vary across different demographic groups, and how is such exposure changing over time? Under what conditions do people support (or oppose) measures for environmental protection? (What kinds of people, and what kinds of protections?) Methodologically, we are interested in innovations such as survey experiments, new or improved measures, new analytical techniques appropriate for data types of particular relevance to the environment, and innovative survey modes and forms of data linkage.

Paper Details

1. Apathy is the Enemy. A study of UK environmental concern and its complicated relationship with pro-environmental behaviour.
Ms Rebecca Rhead (University of Manchester)

This research segments the British public according their perception of the environment and environmental problems. Measures of environmental concern are taken from DEFRA’s survey of UK environmental attitudes and behaviours, and analysed using latent class analysis Four classes are produced, capturing different perceptions of the environment and how it is at risk. Environmental attitudes and sociodemographic characteristics of class members are also assessed. Following this, class membership probability is regressed onto 16 measures of pro-environmental behaviour to determine how different forms of concern influence such behaviour. Results provide answers for how environmental attitudes can influence pro-environmental behaviour.

2. Wellbeing and environmental quality: does pollution affect life satisfaction?
Dr Kati Orru (Institute of Social Studies, University of Tartu)
Dr Hans Orru (University of Tartu)
Mr Reigo Hendrikson (University of Tartu)

We examined the extent to which an individual’s life satisfaction is shaped by air pollution. Analysis of subjective wellbeing indicators from the last two waves of the European Social Survey and detailed information on the air pollutant PM10 in Estonia showed that an increase in PM10 annual concentrations by 1 μg/m3 was associated with a significant reduction in life satisfaction of 0.017 points on the ESS 10-point life satisfaction scale. Thus, even in cases of relatively low levels of air pollution (annual concentration 8.3±3.9 μg/m3), in addition to the effects on physical

3. The Swedish Cosmopolitan: Cosmopolitan Attitudes and Political Orientations in Sweden
Dr Joakim Kulin (Department of Sociology, Stockholm University)
Professor Jens Rydgren (Department of Sociology, Stockholm University)

Several scholars attach a fundamental role to the development of cosmopolitan attitudes among democratic electorates, often regarding these attitudes as prerequisites for maintaining world peace and avoiding ecological disaster. Still, very few studies investigate the translation of cosmopolitan attitudes into political orientations and preferences. This study uses latent class analysis (LCA) and representative Swedish survey data from 2013 to study cosmopolitan attitudes, and examine whether these attitudes are linked to subjective left-right placement and party voting preferences. The results show that about 19 percent of Swedes hold cosmopolitan attitudes, and that cosmopolitans are comparably more leftist and green voting.

4. Vulnerability to Urban Heat Stress in Two Climates: The Importance of Social Surveys in Discerning Perceptions of Risk and Resilience in Berlin, Germany and Phoenix, USA
Professor Sharon Harlan (Arizona State University)
Professor Tobia Lakes (Humboldt-Universitaet zu Berlin)
Ms Anita Hagy-ferguson (Arizona State University)
Ms Sarah Osenberg (Humboldt-Universitaet zu Berlin)

Urban populations are increasingly vulnerable to heat stress due to urban expansion, environmental changes, and demographic transitions. A policy priority in the public health community is to create socio-environmental indicators that identify the most vulnerable populations in cities so that effective strategies to mitigate heat stress can be developed. This study examines vulnerability to heat stress by comparing household surveys conducted in Berlin, Germany (2013) and Phoenix, USA (2011). Comparative surveys can help cities learn from each other how to make residents more resilient to the health dangers of extreme heat and environmental change.

5. Pollution Prophylaxis? Social Capital and Environmental Inequality
Professor Kerry Ard (the Ohio State University )
Professor Malcolm Fairbrother (University of Bristol )

This paper investigates whether communities with more social capital are better able to protect themselves from known sources of airborne pollution in the United States. At some scales, we find that communities with more of some types of social capital are indeed located further from polluting industrial facilities. We also find however that controlling for differences in social capital barely attenuates the disproportionate exposure to pollution of low-income and minority communities. Contrary to one influential strand of environmental inequality theory, then, such differences cannot explain why minorities and the poor are disproportionately exposed to pollution.