The media play an important role in risk communication, providing information about accidents, both nearby and far away. Each media source has its own presentation style, which could influence how the audience perceives the presented risk. This study investigates the explanatory power of 12 information sources (traditional media, new media, social media, and interpersonal communication) for the perceived risk posed by radiation released from the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant on respondents' own health and that of the population in general. The analysis controlled for attitude toward nuclear energy, gender, education, satisfaction with the media coverage, and duration of attention paid to the coverage. The study uses a large empirical data set from a public opinion survey, which is representative for the Belgian population with respect to six sociodemographic variables. Results show that three information sources are significant regressors of perceived health-related risk of the nuclear accident: television, interpersonal communication, and the category of miscellaneous online sources. More favorable attitudes toward nuclear power, longer attention to the coverage, and higher satisfaction with the provided information lead to lower risk perception. Taken together, the results suggest that the media can indeed have a modest influence on how the audience perceives a risk.
Keywords: Fukushima nuclear accident; new media; risk perception; social media; traditional media.
© 2016 Society for Risk Analysis.