Assessing subjective preferences for river quality improvements: combining Q-methodology and choice experiment data

Danyel I. Hampson, Silvia Ferrini, R. Kerry Turner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
32 Downloads (Pure)


Choice decisions are inherently subjective but capturing and explaining nuanced variation in respondents’ attitudes is difficult and needs more than the simple socio-demographic variables traditionally used in economic research. In recent years, environmental economists have been shifting towards a more holistic approach to economic valuation, making an increased use of psychology within behavioural economics, to better understand subjective preferences on the environment.
This research applies a novel mixed-methods approach to integrate the results from a Q-methodological analysis, which reveals respondents’ latent traits and perceptions about river management, into a choice experiment which estimates respondents’ preferences for potential future improvements to river water quality. The purpose is to improve the quantification of subjectivity within stated preference experiments.
Q-methodology reveals five statistically distinct narratives (characterised as Ecological, Financial, Leadership, Collaboration, Legislation) which define the main perspectives respondents hold for river management strategies.
Choice experiment results suggest subjectivity causes significant differences in respondents’ choice behaviour. Statistically verified Q-methodological narratives provide plausible explanations for differences in respondents’ choice preferences regarding river water quality improvements.
By triangulating between quantitative and qualitative research methods, we demonstrate a research strategy that can contribute to a better understanding of the impact socially contested perspectives have on respondents’ choice behaviour.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)56-74
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Environmental Economics and Policy
Issue number1
Early online date8 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022


  • Q-methodology
  • discrete choice experiment
  • river water quality

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