The graphic below & to the right (click for bigger view) reports perceptions of risk as measured in a U.S. general population survey last summer. The panel on the left reports sample-wide means; the one on the right, means by subpopulation identified by its cultural worldview.
By comparing, one can see how culturally polarized the U.S. population is (or isn’t) on various risks ranked (in descending order) in terms of their population-wide level of importance.
Some things to note:
- Climate change (GWRISK) and private hand gun possession (GUNRISK) seem relatively low in overall importance but are highly polarized. This helps to illustrate that the political controversy surrounding a risk issue is determined much more by the latter than by the former.
- Emerging technologies: Synthetic biology (SYNBIO) and nanotechnology (NANO) are relatively low in importance and, even more critically, free of cultural polarization. This means they are pretty inert, conflict-wise. For now.
- Vaccines, schmaccines. Childhood vaccination risk (VACCINES) is lowest in perceived importance and has essentially zero cultural variance. This issue gets a lot of media hype in relation to its seeming importance.
- Holy s*** on distribution of illegal drugs (DRUGS)! Scarier than terrorism (!) and not even that polarized. (This nation won’t elect Ron Paul President.)
- Look at speech advocating racial violence (HATESPEECH). Huh!
- Marijuana distribution (MARYJRISK) and teen pregnancies (TEENPREG) feature hierarch-communitarian vs. egalitarian-individualist conflict. Not surprising.
Coming soon: cross-cultural cultural cognition! A comparison of US & UK.