Davis Burroughs deserves credit for a sensible exploration of the gender differences in attitudes toward nuclear energy that his organization, Morning Consult, found in a national public opinion survey this spring. In that survey, 59 percent supported the use of nuclear energy and 29 percent opposed; 52 percent supported increasing the use of nuclear energy and 34 percent opposed.
The gender differences in the Morning Consult survey are striking:
- Among men, 74 percent supported the use of nuclear energy and 20 percent opposed;
- Among women, 45 percent supported the use of nuclear energy and 36 percent opposed.
- 59 percent of men and 76 percent of women either took middle positions on the use of nuclear energy or had no opinion;
- Among men, 32 percent strongly favored nuclear energy and 9 percent strongly opposed;
- Among women, 10 percent strongly favored nuclear energy and 14 percent strongly opposed.
Our latest survey of US public opinion, in February-March 2015, found that only 15 percent of men and 6 percent of women feel very well informed about nuclear energy. Feeling informed is closely correlated with favorable attitudes toward nuclear energy.
Nuclear energy is not the only topic about which women feel less well informed than men. The Morning Consult poll also asked questions on the Patriot Act:
- 25 percent of men and 46 percent of women said they had heard little or nothing on the topic;
- 20 percent of men and 40 percent of women had no opinion on supporting or opposing the repeal of the Patriot Act.
The challenge to the industry, including the many thousands of people who make up the industry, is to communicate information more broadly about nuclear energy’s benefits, such as the fact that with nuclear energy, uniquely, we can have both reliable electricity and clean air.
Davis Burroughs also noted that attitudes of men and women have become more favorable over time. The question asked for NEI since 1983 that shows this trend is worded slightly differently from the Morning Consult question: “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 United States?” The percent in favor rose:
- Among men, from 63 percent in 1983 to 74 percent in 2015;
- Among women, from 43 percent in 1983 to 63 percent in 2015.
Part of this shift over time can be attributed to a growing sense that nuclear energy is needed and important for the future and is probably reasonably safe, based on absence of negative news. Our polls show a sea change in the percentage of the public giving a high rating to the safety of nuclear power plants (same question asked since 1984):
- Among men, from 40 percent in 1984 to 67 percent in 2015;
- Among women, from 27 percent in 1984 to 61 percent in 2015.