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40 Years After Three Mile Island, Americans Split on Nuclear Power via Gallup

BY RJ REINHART

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
49% of Americans favor use of nuclear energy; 49% oppose
47% of Americans believe nuclear power plants are safe
65% of Republicans, 42% of Democrats favor use of nuclear energy

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Four decades after a radiation leak at the Three Mile Island (TMI) nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania caused a national scare, Americans are evenly split on the use of nuclear power as a U.S. energy source. Forty-nine percent of U.S. adults either strongly favor (17%) or somewhat favor (32%) the use of nuclear energy to generate electricity, while 49% either strongly oppose (21%) or somewhat oppose (28%) its use.

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An earlier Gallup question asked in the 1970s and 1980s found that Americans’ willingness to have a nuclear power plant built within five miles of their area plummeted from 42% in 1976 to 23% in 1986, spanning both the 1979 TMI accident and the far more severe 1986 Chernobyl disaster in northern Ukraine — one of the world’s worst nuclear accidents.

Republicans, College Graduates and Men Most Supportive of Nuclear Power
As with many other issues, Americans’ views on the use of nuclear energy reveal a substantial partisan divide. Republicans (65%) are more likely than Democrats (42%) to favor the use of nuclear power. Republicans typically have been more supportive of nuclear energy throughout Gallup’s trend dating back to 1994.

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Bottom Line
Americans’ views on the use of nuclear energy to provide electricity for the U.S. have fluctuated since Gallup first measured them in 1994, seemingly in reaction to domestic energy prices. Support for nuclear power climbed as the price of oil spiked in 2010. However, Americans’ interest in nuclear power since then generally has trended downward as the prices of oil and natural gas have decreased and domestic production of these energy sources has increased. In early 2016, amid a glut of domestic oil and a price plunge, support for nuclear power hit a record low in Gallup’s trend.

The latest results show a modest increase in support for nuclear power, possibly in response to increased oil prices in 2019. Or perhaps some of the increase in support stems from the fact that nuclear energy generates emissions-free electricity — 60% of Americans favor dramatically reducing the use of fossil fuels to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, despite the modest increase in support, the public remains divided in their views on the use of nuclear power in the U.S.

View complete question responses and trends.
Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

Read more at 40 Years After Three Mile Island, Americans Split on Nuclear Power

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