The Effect of Personal Experience and Mass Media on Public Confidence in Two Important Industries: Aviation and Medical Care

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Principal investigators:

Maxine E. Lubner

Vaughn College



Maryann Fiebach


Sample size: 575

Field period: 01/18/2007-01/25/2007


The purpose of this research is to test whether positive experience with, and public information about, two important industries – medical care and aviation – have had an effect on the confidence people have in these two industries. We believe that public confidence in medical care and aviation is at variance with the facts. According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) (2005), there were approximately 600-1,000 civil aviation fatalities in the US per year in the past decade. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) (2000) study estimated that there were between 40,000 – 90,000 deaths due to medical error per year nationwide. Our experiment will test whether providing information regarding the actual safety facts has an effect on the public’s confidence in these two industries.


We know that public confidence in medicine is high from the National Opinion Research Center’s (NORC) General Social Surveys (GSS) (NORC, 2005). First, we would check whether this finding can be replicated in our survey; and next, whether indeed public confidence in medical care is greater than in aviation. If this is true, then our follow-on hypotheses are that public information has a greater effect on confidence than either personal experience or a presentation of safety facts about medical care and aviation.

Experimental Manipulations

All respondents would be asked the two pre- and post-test questions, the two experiments or interventions regarding personal experience, and questions about their sources of knowledge about the industries. However, the experimental group would be given facts about actual error-related fatality frequencies in medicine and aviation, while the control group would be given neutral facts about the two industries.


Professional prestige status
Confidence in the industry