Dealing with Risk: Why the Public and the Experts Disagree on Environmental Issues

For decades, policymakers and analysts have been frustrated by the stubborn and often dramatic disagreement between experts and the public on acceptable levels of environmental risk. Most experts, for instance, see no severe problem in dealing with nuclear waste, given the precautions and safety levels now in place. Yet public opinion vehemently rejects this view, repudiating both the experts' analysis and the evidence. In this study, Howard Margolis moves beyond the usual rival rationalities explanation proffered by risk analysts for the rift between expert and lay opinion. He reveals the conflicts of intuition that underlie those concerns, and proposes a new approach to the psychology of persuasion and belief. Examining the role of intuition, mental habits, and cognitive frameworks in the construction of public opinion, this account seeks to bridge the public policy impasse that has plagued controversial environmental issues.