Social Vulnerability and Trust in Government Disaster Response: The Case of a Potential Flood Event in a Metropolitan Area
Social vulnerabilities are the attributes that a population may have that contribute to creating susceptibility to negative disasters impacts. They are social constructs determined by factors relating to social capital; due to them, stated by Sociopolitical Ecology Theory, some will have an easier time competing for limited public disaster response resources. However, individual perceptions regarding personal abilities to compete against those in other social groups is a previously little explored phenomenon. This research helps fill this gap, utilizing findings to expand upon a conceptual framework for understanding individual perceptions of personal abilities to compete for limited public disaster response resources. The framework was developed utilizing emergency management, public administration, and public policy literature. It was then tested using qualitative content analysis of forty individual interviews conducted with diverse Omaha area residents. Utilizing demographic data, participants were sorted into four Social Vulnerability Score groupings for data comparison, utilizing the unique Social Vulnerability Scoring Rubric. Key findings from this study include social vulnerability levels having direct impacts on trust in government disaster response and perceived access to resources. In sum, the less vulnerable groups were more trusting of government disaster response and more confident in their abilities to gain access. More vulnerable participants perceived their own abilities to gain access to public disaster response resources to be lesser. Finally, another phenomenon also emerged regarding the Covid-19 pandemic; participants were in direct conflict over two pandemic response resources: freedom and personal health.
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