Environmental Economics

Citizen's Preferences for Enviornmental Options: Evidence on Existence and Triggering

  • Abstract
    Objectives/Hypotheses: This project was suggested by questions from focus group respondents to a forest-valuation, multi-attribute utility (MAU) questionnaire-in-the-making, who asked, in so many words, `Should we use our personal preferences in responding or should we put on our citizen hats and try to say what we think would be in the public interest?` The possibility that at least some significant fraction of ordinary people have available two or more preference orderings over unfamiliar, albeit not wildly exotic, environmental options offers a striking contrast to the view, coming out of psychology, that people are unlikely to be aware of any preferences in such settings, until these are constructed during questioning. Our objective is to investigate the claim of these respondents by seeking evidence for or against it in a specially devised, 3-attribute MAU survey about preferences over management options for a forested park in Nashville, TN. Our general hypothesis is that, by stressing one or another of several `themes` for the questions, we can trigger predictably different response patterns across subsamples. Approach: Our approach will involve a three-attribute MAU survey about preferences over management options for a forested park in Nashville, Tennessee. Two of the attributes will be intensity of recreation use indices--one for land-based and the other for water-based activities. The third will be a daily entry fee. Respondents will be asked for : their judgments of their most- and least preferred levels of the attributes; their orderings of the attributes in terms of importance and their swing weights that tie numbers to relative importance; and how they would trade each attribute off against the others. They will also be asked, after they have finished these tasks, how they would characterize the bases for their answers (their own preferences; concern for others; concern for the ecosystem, future generations or some other norm). The survey will be administered by mail to three independent samples of equal size. One will receive a benchmark frame, designed to have the features of a standard MAU-willingness to pay survey. The other frames will be designed to trigger alternative citizen preferences; one sympathetic to the welfare of other (living) citizens, the other committed to an ethical proposition involving preservation of the environment for the future, independent of use. Specific hypotheses: (a) That sympathetic preferences will favor more intense use than the benchmark or committed versions; (b) that the committed preferences will favor less intense use than the others; (c) that the orderings of most- and least-preferred levels of the intensity-of-use attributes will be reversed between the sympathetic and committed preferences; that the expression of preferences having these patterns will be more likely the higher the income and the greater the educational level of the respondent. Results/benefits: We argue that, while there is a long and respectable literature concerning the existence and importance of multiple preference orderings co-existing in the same individual, not nearly enough is known about the phenomenon empirically. Greater knowledge will help us understand its practical importance in such current areas of research as: the use of information as a policy tool; the interpretation of warm glow effects and non-use benefits; and even the explanation of the observed difference between mean bids evoked by dichotomous and by open-ended CV question formats.
  • Metadata
    Principal Investigators:
    Russell, Clifford S.
    Gregory, Robin
    MacLean, Douglas
    Clark, Chris
    Hadley, Molly
    Technical Liaison:
    Research Organization:
    Vanderbilt University
    Decision Research
    Maryland, University of
    Funding Agency/Program:
    Grant Year:
    Project Period:
    October, 1997 to October, 1999
    Cost to Funding Agency:
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