Research: Risk-benefit perceptions, preferences for solutions, and gaining trust: Listening to New Jersey’s Atlantic Ocean port communities

June 22, 2022

Ports are economic gems in a globalizing, multipolar economic world. Even though activity slowed with the pandemic, most have navigated through the crisis and have strongly rebounded. They are also challenging for planners and managers, as they often lead to health and environmental impacts affecting the surrounding communities, including air quality issues, emissions, water contamination and more.

In “Risk-benefit perceptions, preferences for solutions, and gaining trust: Listening to New Jersey’s Atlantic Ocean port communities,” (Risk Analysis, June 2022), Bloustein School Distinguished Professor emeritus Michael Greenberg and teaching assistant Diren Kocakuşak, PhD ’21, designed a survey to measure public preferences for management actions at ports that would reduce negative risk perceptions, increase competence-based trust, and overall provide port managers with opportunities to build communication channels with surrounding populations.

The authors surveyed approximately 500 residents in a 45-square mile area of New Jersey containing over 300,000 people and a dozen large and small ports about solutions that offered independent science support, provided ongoing public health surveillance, and economic assistance for local communities. Environmental health concerns about air, noise, fires, port security, and protection against climate-related impacts were major correlates of these preferences. Yet many residents recognized economic benefits associated with nearby ports and many either trusted port management or were neutral and felt not well informed. Those who had a personal or family connection to the port were stronger port supporters.

The most important finding and challenge for port managers is building ongoing relationships with the majority of nearby residents who are not aware of port activities, which presents an opportunity for increasing trust through proactive outreach and listening to nearby community representatives.

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