Risk Perception in a Developing Country: The Case of Jordan

  •  Mahmaod Al-Rawad    
  •  Adel Al Khattab    


Purpose: Recognizing the importance of risk perception and the poor understanding of the phenomenon in developing countries, this study characterizes risk perception in Jordan.

Design: A mixed quantitative and qualitative survey approach was adopted. Semi-structured interviews were used to identify risks relevant to Jordanian society, then perceptions of these were examined using a questionnaire. Sampling was stratified by province and convenience sampling was adopted within each stratum. The response rate of 53.6 percent was adequate for accurate and useful results representative of the target population. The questionnaire data were analyzed using parametric statistics including principal component analysis and mean analysis.

Findings: A cognitive map shows that Jordanians perceived warfare and terrorist attack as the most dreaded, catastrophic and uncontrollable risks to society. Refugee influx was also perceived as a high risk on the dreaded dimension. Although Jordan generates no nuclear electricity, nuclear power was also loaded high on the dreaded factor, confirming that risk perception can be affected by negative international events.

Research Limitations/Implications: A proper interpretation of the cognitive map requires an appreciation of the plasticity of risk, as perceptions are changed by scientific knowledge, media coverage and globalization of risk issues. Future research should examine these changes and determine other possible variables influencing risk ratings at different times. While stratified sampling helped the representativeness of the sample, convenience sampling was applied within each stratum. Future research might use probability sampling instead. This study gives risk analysts and policymakers a basis for understanding and anticipating public responses to risks and improving the communication of risk information among laypeople and decision-makers.

Originality: This study is one of few to develop a cognitive map and investigate factors influencing risk perception in Jordan, in the volatile Middle East. Rather than surveying mainly students, it used a representative sample from Jordan’s 12 provinces.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.