PS 61-20
Uncovering the role of socio-demographic factors and place on environmental literacy among urban and suburban park users

Thursday, August 13, 2015
Exhibit Hall, Baltimore Convention Center
Daniel G. Clark, Ecology and Evolution, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
Rebecca C. Jordan, Human Ecology & Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources, Rutgers University School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, New Brunswick, NJ
Amanda E. Sorensen, Ecology and Evolution, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ

Public engagement and acceptance of environmental policy is and has been an important piece in funding the research and protection of ecosystems.  It has been demonstrated that an important part of how individuals view environmental issues is exposure to positive outdoor and environmentally themed experiences and educational opportunities from a young age.  This research gives insight into research on environmental engagement by the public by investigating use of green spaces across a random selection of individuals from central New Jersey. The data gathered helped us in answering whether people who spend more time in urban greenspaces are more environmentally literate than their peers in a way that is significantly separate from socio-economic status, education and other factors.  Furthermore, we sought to answer whether people who self-identify as environmentalists are more knowledgeable than others who do not identify as environmentalists.

A questionnaire was mailed out to members of the public in the spring of 2014 with questions about demographic factors such as age and education, as well as questions about science and environment.  Seventy-four questionnaires were analyzed using multiple correspondence and correlation measures; as well as cluster analysis. 


Prominent among our results was the relationship between income and multiple variable, such as income scales positively with education, and that environmental literacy scale positively with education.  There were some other relationships uncovered that were perhaps new but unsurprising, such as that fact that all pet owners in the pool of respondents spend at least some time outside, and that ~25% of respondents have high environmental literacy but spend very little time outside, or that respondents expressed almost the exact level of trust in newspapers that they did in magazines. Some other interesting relationships also became apparent when performing correspondence analysis on the data.  There is a significant (p<0.05) relationship between environmental literacy and respondents’ level of trust in corporations.  Additionally, how much trust respondents place in local groups or newspapers is significant in whether or not they visit non-local parks.

The information gleaned from this research provides a useful and fruitful starting point for examining the relationship that members of the public have with their local greenspaces and a direction to start from when determining how to increase public knowledge and engagement with ecology.