Date of Award

Spring 2015

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Lawrence Hamilton

Second Advisor

Thomas Safford

Third Advisor

Cliff Brown


Perceptions of environmental issues are influenced by a variety of factors. Sociological research on this topic has largely taken a social-psychological approach and as a result the effects of community and biophysical contexts on individual perceptions are given less attention than individual-level predictors, such as political party affiliation or measures of educational attainment. Using data from the Communities and Environment in Rural America (CERA) surveys, I employ a mixed-effects modeling technique to investigate the influence of individual- and county-level characteristics on public perceptions of unusual or extreme weather.

In addition to the survey data, I also utilize county-level weather events data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Storm Events Database (SED) and the Storm Prediction Center's (SPC) Severe Thunderstorm Events Archive (STEA) in order to test whether the incidence and impact of severe weather influences public perceptions of unusual or extreme weather. This study adds to a growing body of literature on public perceptions of environmental issues by illuminating the socio-demographic and -contextual nature of individual-level perception formation through the use of integrated social and biophysical data.