Scandinavian Working Papers in Business Administration

SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Business Administration,
Stockholm School of Economics

No 2004:7: Gene Technology in the eyes of the public and experts. Moral opinions, attitudes and risk perception.

Lennart Sjöberg ()
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Lennart Sjöberg: Center for Risk Research, Postal: Stockholm School of Economics, P.O. Box 6501, SE-113 83 Stockholm, Sweden

Abstract: Risk perceptions and attitudes to genetically modified food (GMF) were investigated in a survey study of the public (N=469) and experts (N=49). The response rate was 47 percent for the public. For the experts, response rate was 60 percent. GMF technology was rated as the worst of 18 technologies by members of the public and highly replaceable. Experts had a very different view but also saw GMF as replaceable. Models of risk perceptions and attitudes with regard to policy and consumer intentions were fitted to data. It was found that a very large share of the variance, about 70 percent, was accounted for in the latter cases, while risk perception was somewhat harder to account for (about 50 percent was explained). Traditional explanatory factors such as Dread and Novelty were weak explanatory factors as compared to new approaches, which included Interfering with Nature, Moral value of technology and Epistemic trust. Experts were throughout much more positive to GMF than were members of the public. However, their attitudes and risk perceptions still showed dynamic properties similar to those found in the data from the public. The differences between experts and the public could be well explained in terms of the models tested. In comparisons with recent Eurobarometer studies of attitudes towards GMF, risk emerged in the present study as a more important factor in attitudes, equally important as benefits. The models formulated for the present data were about twice as powerful as those in published analyses of Eurobarometer data.

Keywords: Gene technology; risk perception; policy attitude; consumer behavior; experts; epistemic trust; risk sensitivity

54 pages, First version: June 7, 2004. Revised: May 11, 2005. Earlier revisions: June 15, 2004.


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