WASHINGTON, D.C.—Public support for nuclear energy remains near record levels, with solid majorities believing nuclear energy will and should play a prominent role in the nation’s energy future, according to a new public opinion survey.
For the second consecutive year, more than 70 percent of Americans said they favor the use of nuclear energy as one of the ways to provide electricity in the United States. Seventy-one percent of those surveyed expressed support, with 26 opposed. Those “strongly favoring” nuclear energy outnumber those “strongly opposed” by a three-to-one margin, 31 percent to nine percent, according to the telephone survey of 1,000 adults conducted Feb. 10-13 by Bisconti Research Inc./GfK Roper.
The survey was sponsored by the Nuclear Energy Institute and has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.
The latest findings confirming strong public support for nuclear energy comes as the Obama administration and members of Congress are advocating the technology’s inclusion in a clean-energy portfolio to fuel economic growth and create jobs in a more environmentally friendly manner.
Eighty-nine percent of Americans agree that, “We should take advantage of all low-carbon energy sources, including nuclear, hydro, and renewable energy, to produce the electricity we need while limiting greenhouse gas emissions.” Only 10 percent disagree.
Seventy-nine percent of those surveyed agreed that, “To jump-start investment and maintain U.S. competitiveness, the federal government should provide guarantees backing loans for building solar, wind, advanced-design nuclear power plants or other energy technology that reduces greenhouse gases.” Nineteen percent do not agree.
“The growing support for nuclear energy in recent years may be due to greater public awareness of key benefits of the technology,” said Ann Bisconti, president of Bisconti Research Inc. “And for the second consecutive year, the president prominently referenced nuclear energy in his State of the Union speech.”
Last March, a record 74 percent of respondents surveyed by Bisconti Research/GfK Roper said they favor the use of nuclear energy.
In the latest survey, when Americans were asked how important they think nuclear energy will be in meeting the nation’s electricity needs in the years ahead, 84 percent say “important,” while 11 percent say “not important.” Sixty-six percent of respondents agree that, “We should definitely build more nuclear power plants in the future,” while 30 percent disagree.
The extent of Americans’ awareness of nuclear energy’s key benefits is borne out in the survey data. Eighty-four percent of respondents associate nuclear energy “a lot” or “a little” with reliable electricity; 79 percent associate nuclear energy with affordable electricity; 79 percent associate nuclear energy with economic growth and job creation; and 77 percent associate nuclear energy and clean air.
“It’s clear that information about nuclear energy in the media is reaching substantial numbers of the public,” Bisconti said. “And the public’s view of nuclear power plant safety has transformed over the past decades. This research shows 67 percent of Americans viewing nuclear plants as safe, compared with 35 percent in 1984.”
The Obama administration is seeking to increase the amount available from federal loan guarantees to build new nuclear plants in recognition that nuclear energy is a proven, reliable, carbon-free source of electricity. Nuclear power plants operating in 31 states provide 20 percent of all U.S. electricity, and 70 percent of the electricity that comes from low-carbon sources.
Surveys conducted by Bisconti Research show a significant change in the public’s view of nuclear energy over time. Favorability has climbed to 71 percent today from 49 percent in 1983.