The election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 was said to herald a new mood of opposition to government regulation. But at the same time, large and vocal segments of the population have been demanding that corporations and regulatory agencies address public concerns about technological safety. What do we really know about people's perceptions of technological risk and their judgments about appropriate levels of technological regulation?
Perceptions of Technological Risks and Benefits analyzes the results of a unique body of survey data—the only large-scale, representative survey of public attitudes about risk management in such technologies as nuclear power, handguns, auto travel, and industrial chemicals. The findings demonstrate that public judgments are not simply anti-technological or irrational, but rather the product of a complex set of factors that includes an awareness of benefits as well as a sensitivity to the "qualitative" aspects of risk (how catastrophic, dreaded, or poorly understood a hazard seems to be).
This volume offers striking evidence that whatever Americans may think about government regulation in general, they are remarkably consistent in desiring stricter regulation of technological safety. These conclusions suggest that the current trend away from regulation of technology reflects a less than perfect reading of public sentiment.