Research findings

Littering vs. Cleanliness: People’s Thoughts on Public Space

How do Austrians behave in public space and how do they assess the people around them?

In September 2023 306 Austrians were surveyed on behalf of the “Im-Fokus” report for m.core/WU Vienna. This time, the survey was about behaviour in public spaces with a focus on littering.

The respondents were asked to indicate how often they carry out various activities in public spaces and how they assess the behaviour of other people.

The participants indicated that they perform the listed behaviours less often than other people of their age and gender (p’s < .05).

What things are the respondents most annoyed about and what are they happy about?

Participants were also asked which three things they were most annoyed or pleased about when they were out and about in public space. The participants were free to name three things, which were then categorised and ranked according to the frequency with which they were mentioned. The three most frequent mentions are shown in the following chart.

Other responses revealed the following intriguing findings:

Interestingly, many of our participants are annoyed by littering (n = 135), but only a few participants (n = 35) are happy about cleanliness.

Apart from the unpleasant behaviour of others (e.g. taking photos), our participants were explicitly annoyed about inconsiderateness (n = 41).

Urban design or infrastructure has both a positive (n = 40, e.g.: pedestrian zones) and negative (n = 40, e.g.: too few rubbish bins) effect on the state of mind.

Furthermore, the respondents were asked to indicate on a scale from 0 (= not at all) to 100 (= very much) how much they were annoyed by various behaviours. The most frequently mentioned behaviours were “leaving rubbish on the bench” (88), “throwing a handkerchief on the street” (83), “throwing cigarettes on the ground” (70) and “throwing rubbish in the residual waste despite the close separation system” (61).

The survey was answered by 306 participants (46.7% female, 53.3% male), with an average age of 43.57 years (standard deviation 13.55).

Find the full study in German here!


published: 25.10.2023

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