Recent Crisis in Japan Has Had Little Impact on Americans' Views on Nuclear Power: Poll

Many acknowledge health concerns, but also believe nuclear power plants can be made safer

Mar 31, 2011, 12:00 ET from Harris Interactive

NORWALK, Conn., March 31, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Three weeks after a massive earthquake and tsunami crippled four nuclear reactors in Japan, Americans are displaying only a slight shift in their opinions on nuclear power, a new Harris Interactive/HealthDay poll shows.

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The U.S. public is almost equally divided on whether or not more nuclear power plants should be built on American soil, with 41 percent supporting the idea and 39 percent opposed. This represents only a slight change from three years ago, when 49 percent supported nuclear plants and 32 percent opposed them, according to a new Harris Interactive/HealthDay poll released today.

"The problems with Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant have clearly influenced American attitudes to nuclear energy, but not by as much as I expected," said Humphrey Taylor, chairman of the Harris Poll Interactive. "Support for building more nuclear power plants in the United States is down," he noted, but "that still leaves the public split, 41 percent to 39 percent, with 20 percent not sure. Most people recognize the potential dangers of nuclear accidents but continue to think that nuclear power plants are at least 'somewhat safe.'"

Today's poll results are not surprising to analysts from Harris Interactive.  In the mid-1970s they released a poll that indicated almost two-thirds of Americans were in favor of nuclear power. Following the 1979 Three Mile Island accident, however, only 47 percent were pro with 45 percent against.

More important poll results:

  • 73 percent of respondents believed that nuclear waste disposal remains a "major problem," while 55 percent thought that the possible escape of radioactivity into the atmosphere is equally dangerous
  • Almost a third of all adults (29 percent) still consider nuclear power plants "very safe," with another 34 percent saying they are "somewhat safe." In 2008, those numbers were very similar, at 34 percent and 33 percent, respectively.
  • 46 percent of U.S. adults agreed that, "The risk of accidents and radiation exposure from nuclear power plants is too high to be acceptable."
  • More than half (55 percent) of Americans agreed that there is need to build nuclear power plants because they do not produce greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming and climate change unlike those that use oil, gas or coal.
  • Additionally 59 percent of those surveyed agree to this statement, "It is OK to build nuclear power plants if we build them far enough away from earthquake fault lines and areas with large populations."

The poll included 2,090 adults over age 18 who were surveyed online between March 23-25, 2011, by Harris Interactive, one of the world's leading custom market research firms, and HealthDay, a leading producer and syndicator of health news.

The complete findings of the newest joint Harris Interactive/HealthDay poll are available here.  HealthDay's news report is available here. Full data on the poll and its methodology are available at Harris Interactive.

About HealthDay

HealthDay, a division of Scout News LLC, is a leading producer and syndicator of evidence-based health news for consumers and physicians and is the largest syndicator of that news to Internet sites. Its consumer health news service (www.healthday.com) appears on more than 5,000 Web sites such as Yahoo!, MSN, iVillage, US News & World Report, hundreds of hospitals and hospital group Web sites, as well as print publication Web sites across the country. HealthDay also produces Physician's Briefing (www.physiciansbriefing.com), a news service for physicians, nurses and other medical professionals updated twice daily providing 15 articles a day across 32 medical specialties. HealthDay also provides custom content for major health portals. The newest addition to the HealthDay portfolio is HealthDay TV -- a 90-second news broadcast of essential health information that appears on several major media Web sites, U.S. government Web sites and other health information sites.

About Harris Interactive

Harris Interactive is one of the world's leading custom market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers expertise in a wide range of industries including health care, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goods. Serving clients in more than 215 countries and territories through our North American, European, and Asian offices and a network of independent market research firms, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help us -- and our clients -- stay ahead of what's next. For more information, please visit www.harrisinteractive.com.  


TABLE 1
FAVOR/OPPOSE BUILDING MORE NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS
"In general do you favor or oppose the building of more nuclear power plants in the United States?"


Base:  All Adults



%

FAVOR (NET)

41

       Strongly favor

18

       Somewhat  favor

23

OPPOSE (NET)

39

        Somewhat oppose

20

        Strongly oppose

19

 NOT SURE  

20





TABLE 2
FAVOR/OPPOSE BUILDING MORE NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS – 1975-2011
"In general do you favor or oppose the building of more nuclear power plants in the United States?"


Base:   All Adults



1975

1976

1977

1978

1979

2008

Now

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Favor

63

61

59

57

47

49

41

Oppose

19

22

25

31

45

32

39

Not Sure

18

17

16

12

8

19

20









Note:   Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding.




TABLE 3
DANGERS OF NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS – MAJOR PROBLEMS
"Below are some things that some people have said are problems associated with nuclear power plants being used as a source of energy for electric power.  Please indicate if you think each one is a major problem connected with nuclear power plants, a minor problem or hardly a problem at all?"


Base:   All Adults



A Major Problem

2008

Now

%

%


The disposal of radioactive waste materials which remain radioactive for many centuries to come.

72

73


The escape of radioactivity into the atmosphere

51

55




TABLE 4
SAFETY OF NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS – 1978-2011
"All in all, from what you have heard or read, how safe are nuclear power plants that produce electric power?"


Base:   All Adults




1978

1979

2008

Now

%

%

%

%

Very safe

26

21

34

29

Somewhat safe

38

46

33

34

Not so safe

20

30

16

15

Dangerous

8

*

*

11

Not sure

8

3

17

11


* "Dangerous" not included in scale this year.




TABLE 5
AGREE/DISAGREE WITH STATEMENTS ABOUT NUCLEAR POWER
"Please indicate how strongly you agree or disagree with each of the following statements.”


Base:   All Adults


Agree

Disagree


All Who Agree Strongly or Somewhat


Strongly

Somewhat

Somewhat

Strongly

Not Sure

We need to build nuclear power plants because they do not produce greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming and climate change, unlike those that use oil, gas or coal.

%

21

34

14

11

20

55

The risk of accidents and radiation exposure from nuclear power plants is too high to be acceptable.

%

22

23

24

18

13

46

It is okay to build new nuclear power plants if we build them far enough away from earthquake fault lines and areas with large populations.

%

26

33

14

12

15

59

The type of accidents that have happened to the nuclear power plants in Japan could happen in the US.

%

39

34

11

5

9

74

People who live near nuclear power plants have a significantly greater risk of developing cancer than those who do not live near nuclear power plants.

%

26

28

14

12

20

54

Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding.



Methodology

This survey was conducted online within the United States March 23 to 25, 2011 among 2,090 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words "margin of error" as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal. 

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

Full data available at www.harrisinteractive.com

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls. 

Press Contact:
Corporate Communications
Harris Interactive
212-539-9600
press@harrisinteractive.net

SOURCE Harris Interactive



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