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Modeling risk perceptions, benefit perceptions, and approval of releasing genetically engineered mosquitoes as a response to Zika virus

Public opinion regarding genetic control of infectious disease vectors such as mosquitoes varies in part because the underlying risk and benefit perceptions about novel gene editing and genetic engineering (GE) techniques are multi-faceted. We designed a survey of the US population (N = 1137) to unpack some of those complexities. Of particular interest was modeling the constituent attitudes and perceptions that contribute to individuals’ approval or disapproval of releasing GE mosquitoes to prevent the spread of Zika virus, including deference to scientific authority, Zika issue involvement, Zika concern, Zika knowledge, GE food approval, GE mosquito risk perceptions, and GE mosquito benefit perceptions. Deference to scientific authority and GE mosquito benefit perceptions had the largest influences on GE mosquito approval, while several other concepts had smaller influences. We discuss the societal relevance of these findings as well as their relevance to theory and stakeholder communication.