Date of Award:

5-2009

Document Type:

Dissertation

Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department:

Environment and Society

Advisor/Chair:

Mark Brunson

Abstract

This dissertation explores the demographic, economic, political, and environmental characteristics that have helped define the "New West," reviews studies on individual attitudes and participation in response to these changes, and presents findings and conclusions from an analysis of two study areas: Bear Lake and Star Valley. Results suggest that residency status is generally not a significant predictor of resident attitudes towards aspects of community change. Non-residency status factors, such as high levels of place attachment, knowledge about community affairs, values for property ownership, and community satisfaction, were generally more influential upon residents' attitudes.

Significant predictors of resident involvement in community affairs differed based on how involvement was measured; self-reported involvement in political affairs was most strongly predicted by permanent resident status, local social connections, knowledge of community affairs, and place attachment, while resident intention to participate in community affairs was positively correlated with greater personal efficacy, knowledge of community affairs, past leadership recruitment, place attachment, and altruistic motivation. Predictors for intention to participate also differed based on whether participation was measured by action type or by issue. Measuring participation by the type of action focused predictors on the skills, incentives, and resources needed to achieve those actions. Grouping participation by the type of issue, however, focused predictors on the characteristics that differentiated residents with regard to issue relevance.

Out-migration, as an alternative to participatory action, was only predicted by non-economic factors. Additionally, the relationship between attitudes and behavioral intentions was only weakly predicted based on attitude ambivalence and specific scenarios. Study results highlighted several methodological considerations for future attitude and participatory studies. Use of general attitudinal statements may have yielded inflated response scores and therefore may not translate to shared acceptability of specific management decisions or trade-offs. This study also explored the notion of behavioral intentions as a means of identifying residents' "ideal" tendency for involvement. Local community leaders may be able to improve resident public participation by utilizing these findings to provide a shared goal for action, identifying appropriate audiences for specific issues, and recognizing how different participatory methods may yield obstacles and opportunities for resident involvement.

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