Nuclear power before the earthquake: international polls

Caring about international public views on nuclear power shouldn’t be at the top of many people’s to-do list right now. For one, donating to the Red Cross should be a lot of places higher (and that’s also, sort of, what I’m going to write about).

But pretty soon now, once the stories from Japan of individual tragedy and wonderful survival have been played out, much of the media will turn to the question of whether nuclear power is safe. And a part of that reporting will be, whether people think that nuclear power is safe.

We can safely assume that public enthusiasm for nuclear energy, around the world, is right now taking a battering (as I write, there hasn’t been a nuclear disaster). We can also expect that a lot will be written about public attitudes to nuclear power. What I want to do here is collect some of the international data from polls conducted before the earthquake.

In summary from those polls: over the last decade (and possibly longer), overt opposition to nuclear power has fallen significantly.  Now (that is, from polls taken before the earthquake), a majority would support the introduction, or continued use, of nuclear power as one of the ways of generating electricity.


I’ve written a couple of times before about attitudes towards nuclear power in the UK, most recently here.

Overall, there has been a relatively consistent fall in opposition to the continued use of nuclear energy to replace existing supply:

That said, other UK polls have shown that though nuclear power may not be so widely opposed as it had been before, it’s seen much less favourably than other forms of power generation. Nuclear only noses ahead of gas and coal when it’s put in the context of global warming and climate change. Read more on that here.


Polls from Gallup show that overall attitudes in the US have followed a similar trend. As in the UK, those supporting the use of some nuclear power overtook those opposing it around ten years ago. Since then, the lead has continued to widen:

1994-2010 Trend: 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.?

More details from these polls are here. Intriguingly, the next wave should be due imminently.

As it happens, another annual poll in the US asks an almost identical question, and finds results that are significantly more favourable to nuclear power (now 71% in favour, 26% against – but the gap was wider until recently). This was conducted by a small organisation called Bisconti Research, through (the well-regarded) polling firm GfK.  The head of Bisconti has been on the Board of Directors of the American Nuclear Society, and I don’t have access to the data tables. That’s all I’m going to say about that particular tracking poll.


I’m again drawing on the excellent Pollytics, who a while back compiled Australian polling data on attitudes to nuclear power.  The polls only cover a period of a couple of years, but show a familiar picture of falling opposition:


So, in these three countries at least, there has been a clear softening of opposition up to this year.

The polls now would certainly show a reversal of this, but that will be from a much higher position than it would have been a few years ago – even if the UK evidence suggests that support was lukewarm.


Apologies for having only covered such a small selection of countries (and ones with similar-ish poltical and media landscapes). Do let me know if you see anything interesting from elsewhere, or come across any post-earthquake polls.  And don’t forget to donate.

  1. […] last time we looked at this we saw that support for nuclear power had been growing over the last decade or so. Now the polls […]

  2. […] last time we looked at this we saw that support for nuclear power had been growing over the last decade or so. Now the polls […]