Perceived Risk, Trust, and Democracy

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Abstract

Risk management has become increasingly politicized and contentious. Polarized views, controversy, and overt conflict have become pervasive. Risk-perception research has recently begun to provide a new perspective on this problem. Distrust in risk analysis and risk management plays a central role in this perspective. According to this view, the conflicts and controversies surrounding risk management are not due to public ignorance or irrationality but, instead, are seen as a side effect of our remarkable form of participatory democracy, amplified by powerful technological and social changes that systematically destroy trust. Recognizing the importance of trust and understanding the “dynamics of the system” that destroys trust has vast implications for how we approach risk management in the future.

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