Dr. Portney and his co-authors have published the first quantitative study on the public’s awareness of the food-energy-water nexus (FEW). So far, most researchers have worked to identify and model the scientific and technical connections between the nexus elements – food and energy, energy and water, and water and food. Recognizing that it is also important to identify what the public understands about these connections as a necessary component of energizing and guiding policy, Portney and other researchers associated with the Institute for Science, Technology and Public Policy conducted a representative national public opinion survey of U.S. adults on the FEW nexus. Using responses to various questions on the survey, the researchers developed indices that measure the public’s awareness of the nexus elements. They then analyzed the extent to which these awareness measures influenced support for several policies that address the connections between the nexus elements. That is, policies that recognize the trade-offs between, say, growing more food but then having less water for other uses, such as producing energy. They found that each of the three measures correlate significantly with support for nexus-based policies, suggesting that increasing people’s awareness of the FEW nexus could be an important means to raise support for nexus-based policy approaches.
Portney, Kent E., Bryce Hannibal, Carol Goldsmith, Peyton McGee, Xinsheng Liu, and Arnold Vedlitz. 2017. “Awareness of the Food-Energy-Water Nexus and Public Policy Support in the United States: Public Attitudes Among the American People.” Environment and Behavior. DOI: 10.1177/0013916517706531.