We’ve looked at a few polls over the last couple of weeks and will reiterate about the new poll from Harris Interactive that I made about the earlier ones: taking a survey when a story about the subject is hot in the news is not going to yield a very believable result. After the situation has stabilized and the media inflammation of the public has receded – well, that’s the time for a poll.
In this case, the numbers are pretty good:
Three weeks after a massive earthquake and tsunami crippled four nuclear reactors in Japan, Americans are displaying only a slight shift in their opinions on nuclear power, a new Harris Interactive/HealthDay poll shows.
The U.S. public is almost equally divided on whether or not more nuclear power plants should be built on American soil, with 41 percent supporting the idea and 39 percent opposed. This represents only a slight change from three years ago, when 49 percent supported nuclear plants and 32 percent opposed them, according to a new Harris Interactive/HealthDay poll released today.
Pew had nuclear energy down considerably more. These new numbers suggests wither that the end of the big news stories has had an impact or Harris caught a more sanguine group. Here’s some of the specific numbers:
- 73 percent of respondents believed that nuclear waste disposal remains a "major problem," while 55 percent thought that the possible escape of radioactivity into the atmosphere is equally dangerous
- Almost a third of all adults (29 percent) still consider nuclear power plants "very safe," with another 34 percent saying they are "somewhat safe." In 2008, those numbers were very similar, at 34 percent and 33 percent, respectively.
- 46 percent of U.S. adults agreed that, "The risk of accidents and radiation exposure from nuclear power plants is too high to be acceptable."
- More than half (55 percent) of Americans agreed that there is need to build nuclear power plants because they do not produce greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming and climate change unlike those that use oil, gas or coal.
- Additionally 59 percent of those surveyed agree to this statement, "It is OK to build nuclear power plants if we build them far enough away from earthquake fault lines and areas with large populations."
In other words, 60 percent consider nuclear energy safe – there are some polls that get this higher in less fractious times – Gallup, for one – but not by much.
If I’m not going to let my mood droop when poll numbers are low, I’d be a hypocrite to let it soar now.
Let’s just leave it at this: nuclear energy is a logical but not very stable polling target at the present time. Oh, and, if we wanted to spin it a little – not the whole circus plate spin but a little - perhaps we can see this poll as a harbinger of the Japan story taking a somewhat less prominent spot on the news page in the wake of Libya. (And if you want to really let elation overtake you, assume that this is the worst it’s going to get at Harris – pretty darn good.)
But even that feels a bit of an overreach. But you know – I could be wrong. Take a look and see what you think.
Oh, and here’s a full story on the poll from Health Day.