Risk Communication

William Burns

Figure 3. Difference in confidence measures between those receiving an inoculating risk-communication message versus no message.

Figure 3. Difference in confidence measures between those receiving an inoculating risk-communication message versus no message.

Risk Communication. We experimentally tested the value of providing an inoculating risk-communication message to the public prior to threat events. We constructed a longitudinal experiment using our national panel. This experiment was done with the help of Tim Sellnow and his team at the University of Kentucky. We randomly assigned subjects to either the group that received the inoculating risk communication message or the group that received no message. Essentially, during survey 1 we collected pre-measures of perceived risk and attitudes toward DHS and the TSA. During survey 2 we presented the risk communication message to the treatment group and once again collected risk perception and attitudinal measures from both groups. During survey 3 both groups received a terrorist attack scenario (bomb explodes on an airline) and were asked risk perception and attitudinal questions. Survey 4 followed up with the same questions asked in Survey 3 a week later. A summary of the results is shown in Figure 3. Differences in confidence are calculated as Post attack measures minus Pre-measures. All differences are significant at the a = .05 level. Essentially, after reading the attack scenario collapse in confidence in DHS and the TSA was significantly less for those exposed to the pre-attack inoculating risk message. This is important because it suggests that it might be possible to mitigate the potentially large economic impacts resulting from public response to certain types of disasters.