Urban sprawl has been identified as a serious threat to forests and other natural areas in the United States, and public concern about the impacts of sprawling development patterns has grown in recent years. The prominence of public concern about sprawl is germane to planners, managers, and policymakers involved in efforts to protect interface forests from urban encroachment because the level of concern will influence the acceptance of policies and programs aimed at protecting forests. A new indicator of public concern about urban sprawl is presented, based on computer content analysis of public discussion contained in the news media from 1995-2001. More than 36,000 news stories about sprawl were analyzed for expressions of concern. Overall concern about sprawl grew rapidly during the latter half of the 1990s. The environmental impacts of sprawl were the most salient concern overall, and concern about loss of open space and traffic problems has increased since 1995 as a share of all sprawl concerns. The method described in this paper provides a new approach for planners and policymakers to monitor change in public attitudes about a wide range of social issues over time.
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- Computer content analysis
- News media
- Public discourse
- Urban sprawl