Cultural Diversity / Attitudes

Attitudes toward Marine Wildlife: Designing a Focus Group Analysis for Culturally Diverse Settings

Working Paper #5

Unna Lassiter, Jennifer R. Wolch and Alec Brownlow

January 1999


The Southern California Coastal Zone consists in highly urbanized areas characterized by an increasingly divers population which includes affluent, working class and low-income people, people of color and recent immigrants, and both suburban and inner city residents. Our Sea Grant research project seeks to clarify the relationships between cultural diversity and attitudes toward marine animals in order to provide more systematic information to marine and coastal educators and environmental managers. This working paper details the design of our focus group analysis. Following interviews with local coastal zone managers, we conducted a series of focus groups to identify the spectrum of behaviors and attitudes toward animals, and the dimensions of urban diversity (such as culture, class, socio-demographics, and ethico-political stances) which may be related to marine wildlife. Five groups defined by racial and ethnic difference and gender homogeneity, from low income inner-city communities of color (African American, Latina, Chicana, Chinese or Filipina women) in Los Angeles were organized. The group discussions were led on the basis of standard practice (in how groups were conducted), and more experimental approaches (in how they were interpreted). Participants provided us narratives and anecdotes about the cultural and social meanings of marine and other animals, and of the human activities related to them. And discussions informed us of current recreational practices relating to marine animals. Thus we obtained a rich sampling of attitudes and practices of a wide diversity of peoples, and by knowing more about where these attitudes originate and how they change, enabled us to better explain and anticipate particular human conflicts related to marine wildlife. Our final analysis resulted in the elaboration of cultural models of attitudes toward animals that reflect processes such as migration, acculturation, and cultural identification. These processes are important components of attitude formation, and their clarification helps understand the orientation, appeal and strength of perceptions, practices, and attitudes.

Keywords: Attitudes toward animals, Cross-cultural attitudes, Marine wildlife, Focus groups.




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