Nakayachi, K. (中谷内一也) (2015).
Examining Public Trust in Risk-managing Organizations After a Major Disaster.
Risk Analysis, 35(1), 57-67.
doi: 10.1111/risa.12243
This research investigates the public’s trust in risk-managing organizations after suffering serious damage from a major disaster. It is natural for public trust to decrease in organizations responsible for mitigating the damage. However, what about trust in organizations that address hazards not directly related to the disaster? Based on the results of surveys conducted by a national institute, the Japanese government concluded, in a White Paper on Science and Technology, that the public’s trust in scientists declined overall after the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake. Because scientists play a key role in risk assessment and risk management in most areas, one could predict that trust in risk-managing organizations overall would decrease after a major disaster. The methodology of that survey, however, had limitations that prevented such conclusions. For this research, two surveys were conducted to measure the public’s trust in risk-managing organizations regarding various hazards, before and after the Tohoku Earthquake (n = 1,192 in 2008 and n = 1,138 in 2012). The results showed that trust decreased in risk-managing organizations that deal with earthquakes and nuclear accidents, whereas trust levels related to many other hazards, especially in areas not touched by the Tohoku Earthquake, remained steady or even increased. These results reject the assertion that distrust rippled through all risk-managing organizations. The implications of this research are discussed, with the observation that this result is not necessarily gratifying for risk managers because high trust sometimes reduces public preparedness for disasters.