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The Economic Research Institute, Stockholm School of Economics SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Business Administration

No 2001:4:
Upplevelser av Hot och Kriser

Lennart Sjöberg ()

Abstract: This is a study of perceived threats to society, with a special interest in new and future threats. An extensive questionnaire was mailed to 250 respondents, 61 percent responded. The respondents came from all strata of society but with a bias in favor of those with a high level of education. Data analyses showed, however, that the bias probably did not compromise the generality of the results.

By way of summary, the respondents seem to have felt that the most important new and future threats were associated with war and international conflicts, crime and social disruption, and certain environmental threats and new illnesses.

The probability of military aggression against our country was judged as quite small but that judgment did not imply that the respondents also thought it was less important to mitigate that risk. In turn, this is explained by the finding that they considered that the consequences of an attack and/or occupation would be very negative.

In a more theoretically motivated part of the study there was an investigation of activity vs consequences as the driving factor behind risk attitudes. In addition, I studied probabilities. The results were very clear. Activity risks were not important as driving factors behind risk attitudes; it was found that the important factor was that of how serious the consequences were judged to be in good agreement with other research. Probabilities were also less important than consequences.

A direct question about what are important factors behind demand for risk mitigation was also posed. Most of the suggested alternatives were popular as explanations, except media attention, novelty of the risk and low costs of mitigation.

There were also some comparative questions about resource allocation in the survey. Only a minority wanted to decrease resources for the defense, but that minority was fairly large and larger for the defense budget than for any other of the society sectors that were investigated. When it came to perceived influence on policy by the people, the respondents saw it as very small indeed. This was true rather generally but defense policies were among those that were most often considered to be conducted with little popular influence.

Keywords: Threats; risk perception; (follow links to similar papers)

50 pages, January 2001

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