Energy Economy

Most Americans Now Oppose Nuclear Energy: Gallup

Paul Ausick

For the first time since Gallup first asked the question in 1994, more Americans oppose the use of nuclear energy to generate electric power than support it. More than half of those surveyed, 54%, oppose the use of nuclear power, compared with 44% that support its continued use.

Even following the nuclear disaster at Fukushima in 2011, some 57% of Americans supported the use of nuclear energy.

Gallup suggests that low energy prices and a perception that there is an abundance of non-nuclear energy sources are the most important factors leading to the change in attitude toward nuclear power. Cheap gasoline has reduced concerns about the U.S. energy supply to a 15-year low. That has elevated Americans’ priority for environmental protection and reduced support for nuclear energy.

Based on political party affiliation, 53% of Republicans continue to support nuclear energy, compared with just 34% of Democrats and 46% of independents. Last year 68% of Republicans favored nuclear energy, as did 42% of Democrats and 48% of independents. In 2009, support for nuclear energy peaked at 76% among Republicans and 54% of Democrats.

Gallup concludes:

Nuclear power plants are expensive to build, often costing billions upfront, although they require relatively low maintenance costs once they are running. And nuclear energy has lower greenhouse gas emissions than other power sources, especially coal, so it is considered a clean provider of electricity. Still, nuclear energy is a bet that the cost over time of coal or natural gas to power an electric plant will be higher than the upfront cost of building a nuclear reactor. And at a time when oil prices are low, it seems Americans are not in favor of making that bet.