Gender Differences in Risk and Communication Behavior: Responses to the New Madrid Earthquake Prediction

November 1999 (VOL. 17, NO. 3)

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This study examines gender differences in comommunication behavior; risk perception, and preparedness in response to the highly publicized New madrid earthquake prediction for a 6.5-7.5 Richter magnitude earthquake on December 2-3, 1990. A survey 0f 629 respondents in November and a follow-up survey of 496 respondents in February 1991 in the Cape Girardeau, Missouri community provided the opportunity to assess public response to the false alarm. The analysis includes a panel survey of 290 respondents who agreed in November to a second interview. When compared with men, women were associated with higher levels of interpersonal discussion about the prediction and perceived higher levels of interpersonal and news media influence on their perceptions of the importance of the earthquuke prediction. Contrary to previous studies reporting higher levels of news media use for men, no gender differences in news media use were found. A majority of studies of risk perception suggest higher levels of perceived risk for women than men. In this siudy, men were associated with higher levels of risk and lower levels of preparedness.