Date of Award

Summer 8-21-2020

Level of Access

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Laura N. Rickard

Second Committee Member

Janet Yang

Third Committee Member

Bridie McGreavy


In the United States, aquaculture receives varying degrees of support based on individuals’ perceptions of the industry. This study analyzes the factors that contribute to those perceptions; namely, message type, affect, political orientation, and environmental attitude. We collected data through a nationwide survey, distributed by Qualtrics, which recruited a representative sample of U.S. residents. The survey included multiple-choice, Likert scale, and open-ended questions regarding individual characteristics (e.g., age, income, political orientation, etc.) and opinions on aquaculture. In order to study message type, we employed four experimental conditions (narrative video, narrative text, infographic video, and text) and one control group with no message. Affect was measured using the Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC) software program. Finally, environmental attitude was determined using Dunlap et al.’s (2000) 15-item version of the New Environmental Paradigm (NEP).

Results from this study suggest that the infographic and narrative video were most effective in eliciting responses regarding perceived benefits of aquaculture. We found that the control group had the lowest rates of aquaculture benefit responses, indicating that it is better to use some sort of stimuli than none at all. Mirroring findings from previous research on aquaculture perceptions (Feucht & Zander, 2015; Freeman et al., 2012; Rickard et al., 2018; Rickard et al., 2020; Schlag & Ystgaard, 2013; Vanhonacker et al., 2011), we also found these results to be an indicator of individuals’ generally low level of awareness and knowledge surrounding aquaculture. Additionally, findings suggest that the narrative video was somewhat off-putting to participants, as there were increased rates of negative emotion among those who watched the narrative video. Lastly, results showed that an individual’s environmental attitude is associated with a greater likelihood of mentioning general aquaculture benefits, as well as environmental benefits. Alternatively, findings indicate that political ideology does not predict an individual’s views on aquaculture– which we speculate might be due to aquaculture not yet having gained the same degree of politicization as other environmental issues in the public sphere within the U.S. (e.g., climate change).

Looking forward, these findings could encourage aquaculture advocates to gear outreach efforts toward individuals with higher environmental-consciousness and be further encouraged in their efforts, as perceptions do not appear to be politically saturated. Researchers might further investigate the influence of message type by employing more conditions with varying length, message, and speaker. Future research might also employ path analysis to explore how perceptions of aquaculture are influenced by different message types, political orientation, and environmental attitude, in both direct and indirect ways. Overall, this work contributes to a more holistic understanding of the public’s perceptions of aquaculture and in turn, informs more effective communication efforts with increased information salience and ideally, support for sustainable aquaculture.

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