And by an impressively wide margin, too. A new poll from Bisconti Research for NEI interviewed 1000 voters to determine the support for nuclear energy depending on which candidate they were leaning towards - we've always liked the idea, much used by pollsters, of the "leaning" voter. You get an image of a grove of folks, swaying as the political winds move them.
Before going through the results, we would have anticipated that John McCain voters would prefer nuclear energy much more than Barack Obama voters; Obama's support has been positive if a bit on the tepid side and we expected his candidacy would attract more environmental no-nuke diehards.
But see for yourselves.
“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 in the United States?”
Favor (which combines strongly and somewhat favors):
That's about what we expect from the McCain crowd, but higher than expected (well, than we expected) from the Obama folk. It may be that engaged voters have tussled with this issue enough to give nuclear a solid boost.
“From what you have heard, do you think that (John McCain/Barack Obama) includes nuclear energy in his energy plan for the future?”
McCain leaners/McCain - 72% McCain leaners/Obama - 24%
Obama leaners/Obama - 54% Obama leaners/McCain - 45%
McCain has been considerably more voluble about his support for nuclear energy both on the trail and at the debates. Obama brings it up, but in terse sentences, not full paragraphs. That seems reflected in these numbers.
There's a few questions probing support for various energy policies. We won't go into the specific questions (involving recycling used nuclear fuel, loan guarantees, and so on) but will note that the range of voters supporting such policies stayed exceptionally high, between 74 and 87 percent.
You can decide what to take away from these numbers. We think it provides evidence that voters are aware of many of the issues around nuclear energy, generally support it despite candidate preference, and understand it well enough as an energy source. You could even conclude that the next president will have pretty wide latitude with where he might go with nuclear energy.
We've mentioned before that we don't blame anyone for doubting the legitimacy of a poll sponsored by an advocacy organization; however, one cannot really measure effectiveness by cooking the books. What's a lot more likely to happen is that an organization simply won't publicize poor results.
And in truth, NEI doesn't publicize good results that broadly, either - most polls are intended for the membership and for internal use, not for the public per se. We received permission from NEI central to share these numbers with you.
Well, all right, it isn't at all fair to compare our grove of leaning voters to the apple trees in The Wizard of Oz. After all, they cheerfully answered the questions and did not throw apples afterward. We just wanted to find some anthropomorphic trees and these was pretty memorable if overly cranky. (And Scarecrow did provoke the trees, if you'll remember.)