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For first time majority of Americans oppose nuclear energy

Staff writer |
For the first time since Gallup first asked the question in 1994, a majority of Americans say they oppose nuclear energy.

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The 54% opposing it is up significantly from 43% a year ago, while the 44% who favor using nuclear energy is down from 51%.

Gallup asks Americans as part of its annual Environment poll if they favor or oppose the use of nuclear energy as one way to provide electricity. Each year from 2004 to 2015, a majority of Americans said they favored the use of nuclear energy, including a high of 62% in 2010.

In 2011, Gallup conducted its annual Environment poll a few days before the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster in Japan, and at that time, 57% of Americans were in favor of nuclear energy. The next time the question was asked in 2012, a similar majority still favored the use of nuclear energy.

And although there have not been any major nuclear incidents since Fukushima in 2011, a majority of U.S. adults now oppose nuclear energy. This suggests that energy prices and the perceived abundance of energy sources are the most relevant factors in attitudes toward nuclear power, rather than safety concerns prompted by nuclear incidents.

Lower gasoline prices over the past year are likely driving greater opposition toward the use of nuclear power. As Americans have paid less at the pump, their level of worry about the nation's energy situation has dropped to 15-year-low levels.

This appears to have resulted in more Americans prioritizing environmental protection and fewer backing nuclear power as an alternative energy source.

Republicans continue to be more likely than Democrats and independents to be in favor of nuclear energy.

Still, support for the use of nuclear energy among Republicans and Democrats has declined in comparison to 2015.

A slight majority of Republicans, 53%, are in favor of nuclear energy, down significantly from 68% last year.

One in three Democrats, 34%, favor it, down from 42% in 2015. Independents' support is essentially unchanged from last year, but is down from the high Gallup found in 2010.

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