Collaborative Research: Hazard Events, Risk Perception, and Public Support for Disaster Risk Reduction in the Americas: a 17-Country Study Grant

Collaborative Research: Hazard Events, Risk Perception, and Public Support for Disaster Risk Reduction in the Americas: a 17-Country Study .


  • This project greatly improves scholars’ and practitioners’ understanding of how governments can successfully implement disaster risk reduction (DRR) policies—policies that are fundamental to fostering and sustaining more resilient communities. Specifically, it creates new knowledge about the factors and conditions that increase or decrease public support for such key DRR policies as building codes and construction regulations. Researchers at Florida International University (FIU) and Vanderbilt University will collect and analyze public opinion data from 17 countries (16 Latin American and Caribbean countries and the U.S.) on experiences with major hazard events, perceptions of future risk, and—crucially—support for DRR policies. Researchers will also look closely at whether and how people’s views change after experiencing a disaster, and the different forms that such experiences may take. The project advances scientific understanding of the efficacy and social sustainability of DRR policy implementation, creating an open-access database available to disaster researchers and policymakers everywhere. It also promotes research community cooperation across academic disciplines and will contribute to creating, in the U.S., a more diverse and globally competitive STEM workforce. Perhaps most importantly, this research helps support strategic efforts in the U.S. (and abroad) to strengthen policies and programs to reduce human and economic losses from disasters. It will also serve U.S. foreign policy interests—including economic, humanitarian and security interests— since hazard events in Latin America and the Caribbean affect U.S. investment, trade, travel, foreign assistance, immigration flows and patterns, and, ultimately, national security. Furthermore, this project will increase public engagement with and appreciation of science and technology, as researchers will disseminate public-facing reports on key findings about hazard event experiences, public support for risk reduction, and “windows of opportunity” for achieving enhanced building survivability and safety. Research for this project will proceed in two phases. In Phase 1, the project team will collect individual-level data on risk perception, attitudes towards risk reduction, and support for DRR policies and enforcement in the 17 countries via a module of DRR questions placed on the 2021wave of Vanderbilt University’s highly-regarded AmericasBarometer survey. Using multi-level mixed-effects regression-style analysis (and controlling for a variety of individual and contextual variables), researchers at FIU and Vanderbilt will test hypotheses on the effects of three sets of factors on support for DRR policies and practices: (1) Disaster risk (perception of the likelihood, severity, and type of hazard events; perception of risk as individual or general; national and local hazard risk profiles); (2) Experience with disasters (as an individual/family, community, or nation); and (3) Governance (trust in government; perceptions of effectiveness / integrity in DRR; personal experience with corruption; national levels of corruption). While these multi-country results are valuable on their own, they also serve as a baseline for understanding how disasters themselves might shape public support for DRR. In Phase 2, the research team will select one LAC country affected by a major hazard event and home in on the impact of experiencing such events: whether disasters as “focusing events” shift public opinion and help open “windows of opportunity” for improving DRR policies and their implementation. The team will deploy post-event surveys and compare pre- vs. post-event public opinion; assess the extent and duration of any changes; and analyze causes of change over time at the individual level. Project findings will provide critical new insights into when and how governments, the private sector, non-governmental organizations, and other stakeholders could improve DRR policies that save lives and protect property. Finally, this research will advance knowledge in several fields of scholarship, including public opinion, public policy, the social psychology of risk, and the multidisciplinary study of disasters.This award reflects NSF’s statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation’s intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

date/time interval

  • September 1, 2020 - August 31, 2023

administered by

sponsor award ID

  • 2019874