Using Theory to Understand Public Support for Collective Actions that Impact the Environment: Alleviating Water Supply Problems in a Nonarid Biome

Routhe, A., Jones, R., & Feldman, D. (2005). Using theory to understand public support for collective actions that impact the environment: Alleviating water supply problems in a nonarid biome. Social Science Quarterly, 86(4), 874-897. doi:10.1111/j.0038-4941.2005.00361.x.

Objectives: There is increasing public debate over how to meet future water supply needs in historically water-abundant areas such as the American southeast. Citizens, policymakers, and others are struggling to find ways to meet these needs and to design political strategies for implementing them. This article examines water supply problems facing many communities in the southeast and how social theory can be used to better understand public support for collective actions designed to alleviate them. It presents a framework synthesizing recent work of Dunlap and Jones on the conceptual foundations of environmental concern research with Ajzen and Fishbein's theory of reasoned action in order to understand public support for building a dam to meet local water supply needs.

Methods: The linkages postulated by the model were empirically tested using mail-survey data obtained from a random sample of 433 adult residents of Cumberland County, Tennessee.

Results: Results demonstrate that public support for building the dam is weak. Conclusion: Knowledge of public beliefs, norms, and attitudes about its construction and potential impact, however, can provide policymakers, natural resource professionals, and local stakeholder groups with a solid understanding of why residents support, oppose, or are unsure about building a dam to alleviate water supply problems in this county.

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