Cultural Diversity / Attitudes

Attitudes Toward Marine Wildlife Among Visitors to an Urban Science Museum


Working Paper #3


Lyndell Nelson Whitley, Jennifer R. Wolch and Roger Salisch


August 1998


A survey of visitor attitudes toward marine wildlife was conducted at an urban museum. This paper presents basic findings from this survey. Survey respondents (n=253) had important similarities with the socio-cultural make-up of the local population, in terms of gender, age, ethnic make-up and language spoken. Museum visitors were also fairly well-educated, relatively young, and urban. Themes and questions were designed to reveal an individual's knowledge about, preferences for, interactions with, and attitudes toward animals. The survey focused on the individual factors shaping these attitudes, especially targeting cultural aspects. Survey results indicate that respondents had some regular exposure to museums, aquaria and science/nature centers and were reasonably knowledgeable about marine wildlife topics. Their species preferences were rated on a Likert scale and inquired into reasons for liking or disliking particular species. Typically, respondents favored particular marine animals for aesthetic reasons, or due to personal interest. This was substantiated by attitudinal questions, which were based on a typology of animal rightist, negativistic, environmentalist, utilitarian and aesthetic attitudes. Most common replies supported aesthetic, animal rightist or environmentalist views. Respondents had little tolerance for traditional animal practices exhibited by various cultural groups outside the US mainstream.

Keywords: Attitudes toward animals, Cross-cultural attitudes, Museum visitors, Marine wildlife


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