Political Trust and Perceptions of Environmental Effectiveness – Explaining Homeowners’ Acceptance of Government Regulations of On-site Sewage Systems
Konferensbidrag (offentliggjort, men ej förlagsutgivet), 2012
What makes homeowners accept regulations intended to enforce the improvement of insufficiently treating on-site sewage systems (OSS) to systems of better standard? This is of great importance for the efforts to reduce the release of eutrophicating substances to the marine environment, an urgent matter for the enclosed Baltic Sea’s riparian countries. Our aim is to analyze the level and causes of homeowners’ acceptance of government regulation of OSSs, assuming that such acceptance is important for the governance system’s overall legitimacy. Without such legitimacy there may be a risk that enforcement measures in the long run will fail. Considering the trust literature’s core insights we analyze the importance of first and foremost political trust, perception of others’ behavior, the impartiality of authorities when controlling homeowners with OSS, and environmental effectiveness. The data was gathered through a questionnaire sent out to randomly selected homeowners with OSS in Sweden. According to results the most important factors explaining rule acceptance are trust in institutions in general and trust in environmental authority inspectors, together with the perception that having an OSS that meets authority requirements will decrease the environmental impact. However, when using trust in institutions in general and trust in environmental authority inspectors as dependent variables, implying indirect effects on rule acceptance, we saw additional effects of whether others comply with requirements and background factors such as contacts with authorities. If homeowners had received an injunction to change OSS, this had a negative effect on the level of trust, contrary to other, “softer”, contacts with authorities. All in all, this confirms the importance of political trust, fair procedures and other’s behavior for accepting authority requirements, and this ought to function as a basis for further action on the part of homeowners. However, there is reason to be cautious, since many homeowners seem to overestimate their OSS and therefore are not aware that their OSS does not meet authority requirements. The results further support the notion that the legitimacy of the governance system depends on its perceived fairness and correctness. In order to maintain both a high level of political trust and its importance for rule acceptance the enforcement style seems to be important. Soft enforcement measures such as personal communication, where the purpose of authority rules are explained, are favorable for trust in environmental authority inspectors and indirectly for rule acceptance. On the contrary, hard enforcement measures such as placing injunctions on homeowners are unfavorable for trust in inspectors and indirectly for rule acceptance.
on-site sewage systems