Particulate matters: How trust and media use impact risk perceptions of air pollution in Beijing

Qiu, Yue
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Trust is an important factor within the formation of risk perceptions, but is easily broken and difficult to rebuild. This study seeks to determine the long-term influence of a trust-breaking event with regard to an environmental risk. Specifically, this study explores how people in Beijing perceive the risk of PM2.5 air pollution and which sources they now use and trust for this information two years after the official media was criticized for not being trustworthy in its dissemination. Results find that respondents perceived PM2.5 air pollution as a significant threat across nine risk dimensions and that social media were most often used to obtain risk messages regarding PM2.5 air pollution. Relationships regarding trust were weak. More trusted sources were expected to be used more often for PM2.5 information, but this relationship was only found for interpersonal sources. Likewise, trust was expected to be related to risk perceptions, but was related with only a handful of risk factors, none of which were consistent across sources. Individuals more impacted by the trust-breaking event were expected to also exhibit less change of trust over time, but this was not found. This general lack of trust relationships may be due to an invalid measure of trust caused by fear of repercussion for criticizing governmental channels in an online survey.

PM2.5, Risk communication, Risk perception