IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Priming Risk: The Accessibility of Uncertainty in Public Policy Decision Making


  • David L. Eckles
  • Brian F. Schaffner


Public opinion plays an important role in affecting policy outcomes. Additionally, risk plays an equally important role in decision making (economic and noneconomic). Yet, we know little about how individuals incorporate risk when forming attitudes on public policy issues. When asked to give an opinion about a policy proposal, individuals are often not presented with information about the uncertainty involved in that proposal and, therefore, may not consider the risks involved in the decision. In this paper, we consider how priming individuals to consider risk may affect the public policy choices they make. We expect that the effect of priming risk will depend on the nature of the policy proposal as well as the respondent’s political knowledge. We offer two tests of our theories utilizing survey experiments soliciting attitudes toward nuclear energy and military action in Iraq. We find that priming citizens to think about the risks involved in taking military action or building nuclear power plants leads to reduced support for those policies, particularly among less educated respondents.

Suggested Citation

  • David L. Eckles & Brian F. Schaffner, 2011. "Priming Risk: The Accessibility of Uncertainty in Public Policy Decision Making," Journal of Insurance Issues, Western Risk and Insurance Association, vol. 34(2), pages 151-171.
  • Handle: RePEc:wri:journl:v:34:y:2011:i:2:p:151-171

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:wri:journl:v:34:y:2011:i:2:p:151-171. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (James Barrese). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.