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Positively resilient? Public perceptions of urban resilience
* 1 , 2
1  School of Geographical Sciences & Urban Planning, Arizona State University
2  School of Politics and Global Studies, Arizona State University


Cities must grapple with rapid changes and an array of risks and hazards. For decades, academics and policymakers have been developing plans and policies to cope with these challenges. These efforts have been couched in terms of building sustainability, hazard mitigation, disaster risk reduction, reducing vulnerability, adaptation, and more recently as a need to build resilience. One common explanation for the concept’s growing popularity is that resilience has a better social connotation and is more positive than related concepts. Empirical evidence supporting this claim is lacking. Moreover, there is no consensus on how to define resilience. Previous work revealed that definitions differ significantly within the academic literature and among practitioners, but it is still unclear how these ‘expert’ conceptualizations compare with the broader public’s. This study uses three survey experiments to test 1) the widely stated, but largely unsubstantiated claim that resilience has a more positive connotation than other concepts; 2) whether the public is more likely to support policies when they are framed in terms of ‘resilience;’ and 3) how the public conceptualizes resilience. Specifically, we test support for policies and conceptualization of four terms that are commonly used in the literature: making cities “more resilient,” “less vulnerable,” “more adaptive,” and “more sustainable.” Survey 1 was conducted on a convenience sample (n=500) of US-based adults drawn from Amazon’s Mechanical Turk crowdsourcing platform. Surveys 2 and 3 were conducted on broad national samples of US adults (n=1000) fielded by Survey Sampling International (SSI). Overall, we find significant differences in policy support and perceived importance, which we trace back to variations in how the concepts are interpreted. The study confirms that framing likely affects public support for policies, but complicates claims that resilience is inherently a more appealing frame.

Keywords: urban resilience; urban sustainability; climate change adaptation; vulnerability