An empirical study for the direct and indirect links between trust in regulatory institutions and acceptability of hazards

Nicolás C. Bronfman, Esperanza López Vázquez, Gabriel Dorantes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Citations (Scopus)


Several studies have identified a significant relationship between trust in regulatory institutions and the extent of a hazard's acceptability. Many, however, have overlooked the potential impact perceived risk and perceived benefit may have on the relationship. Our principal goal is to assess empirically the link between social trust in regulatory entities and the degree of public acceptability of hazards in view of interactions among social trust, perceived risk, perceived benefit and public acceptability. A survey was conducted in 2006 in three cities representative of central Mexico. A total of 356 participants answered the survey. Each participant assessed 30 hazards for perceived risk, perceived benefit, acceptability, social trust in regulatory entities, and personal knowledge. Our main finding was that social trust retained a direct as well as an indirect causal link with the degree of a hazard's public acceptability, independent of hazard, the extent of knowledge, and the magnitude of the hazard's perceived risk and benefit. The relationship encountered between perceived risk and acceptability was unexpected, as numerous studies have demonstrated empirically the influence perceived risk on how acceptable an activity or technology is. In our results the statistical significance of the perceived risk-acceptability relationship practically disappeared when controlled for institutional trust and perceived benefit. In other words, the net linear relationship between perceived risk and acceptability is mediated by the extent of social trust and the benefit perceived. Comparisons with several prior studies are conducted, and implications for regulatory entities are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)686-692
Number of pages7
JournalSafety Science
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2009


  • Acceptability
  • Emerging economies
  • Regulatory institutions
  • Risk perception
  • Social trust

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Safety Research
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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