Majority of Americans Support Use of Nuclear Energy

by Joseph Carroll

Majority also supports expanding use of nuclear energy in the future

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- A recent Gallup poll finds that the American public generally supports the use of nuclear energy as a way to provide electricity in the United States, and also endorses the expansion of nuclear energy in the future. The percentage favoring expanded use of nuclear energy is the highest Gallup has measured since 2001. Even so, Americans remain reluctant to support the construction of nuclear power plants in their local area. Republicans are more likely than Democrats to support the use of nuclear power in the country.

Support for the Use of Nuclear Energy

Gallup's annual poll on the environment, conducted March 13-16, 2006, finds that 56% of Americans support the use of nuclear energy as one of the ways to provide electricity in the United States, while 38% oppose it. Gallup has asked this question five times since 1994, and the results have shown essentially no change across the five polls, with the exception of a March 2001 survey when 46% favored the use of nuclear energy and 48% opposed it.

Republicans, including those independents who lean toward the Republican Party, are somewhat more likely than Democrats, including Democratic-leaning independents, to support the use of nuclear energy in the country.

Another question in the poll gauges public support on eight specific environmental proposals facing the country today, including expanding the use of nuclear energy. The results show that 55% of Americans support expanding the use of nuclear energy, while 40% oppose it. That represents an increase of 12 percentage points in support compared with 2003, when Gallup last asked the item, and is the highest level of support for expanding the use of nuclear energy that Gallup has recorded since it first asked the question in 2001.

This question also finds a partisan variation similar to the one Gallup observes in the general use of nuclear energy in the country. Sixty-two percent of Republicans favor the expansion of nuclear energy, while 33% oppose it. Among Democrats, 51% support it and 44% oppose it.

Although a majority of Americans support the expanded use of nuclear power, this issue ranks near the bottom of the list of environmental proposals in the survey. In fact, only the idea of opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil exploration is favored by fewer Americans than expanding the use of nuclear energy.

Public Support for Environmental Proposals
March 13-16, 2006

Favor

%

Spending government money to develop alternate sources of fuel for automobiles

85

More strongly enforcing federal environmental regulations

79

Spending more government money on developing solar and wind power

77

Setting higher emissions and pollution standards for business and industry

77

Imposing mandatory controls on carbon dioxide emissions/other greenhouse gases

75

Setting higher auto emissions standards for automobiles

73

Expanding the use of nuclear energy

55

Opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil exploration

49

Support for Constructing Nuclear Power Plants in Local Communities

Even though a majority of Americans support the use of nuclear energy in the country, a majority opposes the construction of a nuclear energy plant in their own area. Forty-two percent of Americans endorse constructing a nuclear power plant in their area, while 55% oppose it. However, this does represent an increase from previous years, when support ranged between 34% and 37%.

This is a manifestation of the familiar "not in my backyard" (NIMBY) phenomenon: people generally favor certain proposals that provide a public benefit (such as nuclear power plants, new highways, etc.), but do not want that public benefit to negatively affect their lifestyle or standard of living (such as increased traffic, risks from nuclear production, etc.).

The two party groups show little variation when it comes to building nuclear power plants in their areas. Forty-four percent of Republicans and 38% of Democrats support this notion.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,000 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted March 13-16, 2006. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.

For results based on the 502 national adults in the Form A half-sample and 498 national adults in the Form B half-sample, the maximum margins of sampling error are ±5 percentage points.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

21. Next I am going to read some specific environmental proposals. For each one, please say whether you generally favor or oppose it. How about -- [RANDOM ORDER]?

A. Expanding the use of nuclear energy

Favor

Oppose

No opinion

%

%

%

2006 Mar 13-16

55

40

5

2003 Mar 3-5

43

51

6

2002 Mar 4-7

45

51

4

2001 Mar 5-7

44

51

5

26. Overall, do you strongly favor, somewhat favor, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose the use of nuclear energy as one of the ways to provide electricity for the U.S.?

BASED ON 502 NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM A

Strongly favor

Somewhat favor

Somewhat oppose

Strongly oppose

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

%

2006 Mar 13-16

22

34

19

19

7

2005 Mar 7-10

17

37

22

21

3

2004 Mar 8-11

19

37

20

19

5

2001 Mar 5-7

20

26

28

20

6

1994 Feb 7-14 ^

21

36

20

17

6

^ U.S. Council for Energy Awareness/Gallup poll

27. Overall, would you strongly favor, somewhat favor, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose the construction of a nuclear energy plant in your area as one of the ways to provide electricity for the U.S.?

BASED ON 498 NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM B

Strongly favor

Somewhat favor

Somewhat oppose

Strongly oppose

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

%

2006 Mar 13-16

14

28

18

37

3

2005 Mar 7-10

11

24

19

44

2

2004 Mar 8-11

10

27

22

37

4

2001 Mar 5-7

11

23

19

44

3

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