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ESRA 2023 Program


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Survey data as a source to study sustainability and environmental issues

Session Organiser Dr Dennis Abel (GESIS Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences)
TimeWednesday 19 July, 09:00 - 10:30
Room U6-21

Given the ESRA conference theme 2023 “Survey research in times of crisis: Challenges, opportunities, and new directions”, this session focuses on the fundamental ecological crises of climate change and biodiversity loss, which require “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society to limit global warming to 1.5 degree Celsius” (IPCC 2018). The session showcases how heterogeneous methodological approaches in survey-based research benefit our understanding of the socio-ecological transition and systemically link protection of the environment with social goals. Therefore, this session discusses interrelations between social, economic, and environmental risks. The session papers collect case studies researching attitudes and behaviour in different geographical settings and subject areas. These concern justice considerations in energy cooperatives in the European Union, climate change framing in communication strategies, trade-off scenarios for marine spatial planning in the UK, sustainability in the building sector, belongingness of forest-dependent communities in central India, and the green gender gap in Norway.

Keywords: sustainability, global warming, socio-ecological transition


Measuring “willingness to accept loss” in relation to marine spaces: A novel use of the Gabor-Granger approach

Mr Thomas Nickson (Ipsos UK)
Miss Sophie Thompson (Ipsos UK)
Miss Sophie Pizzol (Ipsos UK)
Mr Jose Argudo (Ipsos UK) - Presenting Author

The Gabor-Granger technique is traditionally used in price-testing, to find the highest point that consumers are willing to pay for products. However, in a recent survey about the English public’s attitudes towards marine spaces, Ipsos used this method in a novel way to establish the greatest level of “loss” respondents would be willing to accept in a given scenario. Through five trade-off scenarios, we compared commercial fishing, renewable wind energy generation, and marine conservation zones, to analyse how the English public balance these interests, and what trade-offs they would be willing to accept.

Asked directly to rank the importance of commercial fishing, wind energy, and conservation zones, we were concerned respondents would be led by pre-conceived opinions about each. Fishing, wind energy and conservation are all topics which elicit strong responses in public discussion. Fishing, for example, has been discussed greatly in the context of Brexit within the UK, and wind energy has been shown in extensive research to be a divisive topic. We were interested in exploring how the English public would balance these against each other and their preferences for using marine space, rather than simply knowing whether they “supported” them. Using the Gabor-Granger approach, respondents were made to consider the trade-off between one element over another, and indicate their agreement dependent on one element’s impact on another.

Through this method, we were able to provide evidence around the level of “loss” or “change to the status quo” that the English public are willing to accept in pursuit of renewable wind energy and marine conservation. Therefore, our presentation to this session would discuss why we developed the Gabor-Granger “loss” approach, and what we believe its strengths and limitations have been.

Unearthing the Role of Soil Health in Agricultural Productivity Gaps: Enhancing Evidence Base Through Data Integration and Imputation

Dr Sydney Gourlay (World Bank) - Presenting Author
Dr Talip Kilic (World Bank)

Agriculture is the primary means of livelihood for over 90 percent of sub-Saharan Africa’s extreme poor, and thus, improving agricultural productivity is central to poverty reduction in the region. Cross-country research has revealed the importance of closing gender gaps in agricultural productivity as a way to boost aggregate productivity, with female-managed plots being 24 to 66 percent less productive than their male-managed counterparts. However, driven by data scarcity, the role of soil quality in explaining gender differences in agricultural productivity has not been studied rigorously – despite soil health being key to the effectiveness of productivity-improving agricultural technologies. In this paper, we integrate georeferenced data from multiple sources to (i) derive an imputation model for predicting plot-level measures of soil quality at-scale - anchored in existing continental geospatial data and sub-national experimental survey datasets with plot-level objective soil quality assessments; (ii) apply the model to nationally-representative georeferenced longitudinal survey data from Malawi; and (iii) conduct Kitagawa-Oaxaca-Blinder decomposition analyses to determine the contribution of soil health to agricultural productivity differences between male- and female-managed plots. We also provide a comparative assessment of the results obtained by using our imputed measure of soil quality versus the existing continental geospatial metrics. The results reveal that that our imputation approach produces improved estimates of multiple plot-level soil properties, as suggested not only by the increased variation in the soil data across plots, but also by the differential effects of geospatial versus imputed soil properties on agricultural productivity. Furthermore, omission of plot-level soil quality measures is shown to bias decomposition analyses pertaining to gender gaps in agricultural productivity. Our suggested approach to data integration and imputation has the potential to address these shortfalls in future research.

Instrumental support for democratic innovations among citizens, politicians and businesses

Mr Dennis Abel (GESIS - Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences) - Presenting Author
Dr Hanna Werner (University of Zurich)
Dr Stefan Juenger (GESIS-Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences)
Dr Lisanne de Blok (Utrecht University)

Citizen involvement in decision-making on the energy transition is broadly demanded from policy-makers, activists, supranational institutions and academics. However, it remains unclear whether the support for these kinds of participatory processes is rooted in a procedural commitment to giving citizens voice or is rather driven by instrumental expectations of particular outcomes, such as more progressive climate and energy policy. The goal of the study is to investigate reactions to participatory decision-making on the energy transition among citizens, politicians and businesses simultaneously. Specifically, we aim to test the importance of instrumental considerations for respondents' perception of fairness and their willingness to accept the decision. To this end, we design a split sample survey experiment to test respondents' willingness to accept the decision & perception of fairness of a participatory process on energy policy, depending on the favourability of the decision. The analysis is based on an original survey dataset of more than 10,000 respondents from 16 EU countries. Participants are set in a hypothetical decision-making situation on increasing parking ticket prices as a measure to reduce CO2 emissions and local pollution. Variation in the vignette on the decision-making situation in the context of deliberative structures of citizen assemblies and the amount of the price increase between control and treatment groups provide information on approval ratings for the measure depending on its severity. The group comparison between citizens, policymakers and company representatives furthermore allows conclusions to be drawn about instrumental preferences and procedural commitments.

The Use of Survey Questionnaires to Measure Attitudes and Behaviours Related to Sustainable Building Issues

Dr Ana Slavec (InnoRenew CoE) - Presenting Author

The building sector accounts for almost a third of the global final energy consumption and attempts to lower it can have a big impact on the environment. Social sciences have an important role to play in shaping the built environment by conducting research on the predesign and design process and post-occupancy evaluation. In this context, measuring attitudes and behaviours of building users with surveys can play an important role in achieving sustainability goals.

This contribution is based on a systematic literature review that focuses on published research studies that use surveys to examine environmental comfort, energy consumption and other sustainability issues related to building construction and use. The review assesses the quality of contributions and identifies knowledge gaps. Moreover, works that involve specific demographics groups and deal with inequalities are identified. In parallel, an inventory of survey questionnaires and items is generated and a selection of them is assessed with available survey questionnaire evaluation methods. Based on the results improvements of survey research practices to study sustainable building issues are proposed and further research needs are identified.

Global warming vs. climate change frames. Revisiting framing effects based on new experimental evidence collected in 30 European countries

Mr Adam Stefkovics (Center for Social Sciences) - Presenting Author
Miss Lili Zenovitz (PPKE)

Existing evidence suggests that climate change beliefs can be subject to how the issue is framed. Particularly, the choice between a ‘global warming’ versus a ‘climate change’ framing influenced survey responses in some previous wording experiments. Furthermore, since the issue of climate change has become strongly polarized politically, framing effects were found to be moderated by political identification. Nevertheless, most of these framing effects were observed in the U.S. and may not be generalized in other cultures. To contribute to this area of research, I embedded an experiment in nationally representative telephone surveys in 30 European countries. I manipulated the wording of four climate change-related questions (‘global warming’ vs. ‘climate change’) and assessed treatment effects both in the full sample and separately among leftist, rightist, green, and right-wing party voters. I found little evidence of people being more skeptical or less worried when asked about ‘global warming’ compared to ‘climate change’, although trend skepticism was significantly higher in the ‘global warming’ condition. In general skepticism was higher on the political right, however, leftists, rightists, and green and right-wing voters reacted similarly to the two frames in our European sample. I consider possible explanations for the null findings and argue that the use of ‘climate change’ framing in communication strategies promoting climate action itself will do little to lower skepticism in Europe.