Applying the Individual Understanding and Response Framework to sea-level rise south of Delaware's Indian River Inlet

Goodman, Anne
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University of Delaware
This project explored residents' perceptions, opinions and attitudes towards Sea-Level Rise (SLR) in communities located less than 10 miles from the Delaware's Atlantic coast south of the Indian River Inlet. Data analysis used in-depth, individual, in-person interviews to identify factors that influenced area residents' understandings, opinions and responses to the threat of SLR and how these factors did so. Interviews discussed people's coastal land-use involvement, coastal concerns and opinions with a focus on SLR issues, Hurricane Sandy and evacuation decisions. Data consisted of four preliminary interviews conducted in April 2013 and 20 interviews additional interviews in September and October 2013. The Individual Understanding and Response Framework (IURF) was used to guide analysis, and includes factors such as direct experience, communications effectiveness, local social networks, wider concerns and values, perceived responsibility and capacity. The framework further identifies which factors attenuate the risk understanding versus amplify it, and which factors drive or constrain individual responses. Data analysis concluded that though the IURF generally applied to the data accurately, it seemed that previously-held beliefs/values, direct hazard experience, prior interest, source-exposure and personal relevance had the greatest impact on people's perceptions, awareness and engagement with SLR issues. These categories also influenced each other in the same manner that the IURF suggested. The findings overall imply that because people do not feel they have access to unbiased, understandable and reliable information, they ultimately turn to their own personal experiences to formulate their opinions and points of views on SLR.