Attitudes to nuclear power: are they shifting?

4 May 2007

In March 2007, The Australian newspaper carried several stories that suggested there had been a dramatic reversal of attitudes towards nuclear power in Australia and that more people now supported nuclear power than opposed it. However, The Australian compared the results of two different survey questions, and any conclusions are therefore invalid. To test the validity of The Australian's claims, the Australia Institute commissioned Newspoll to conduct a survey on attitudes to nuclear power. To enable a valid comparison, the survey used the same question as had been asked in two previous Newspoll surveys conducted in May and December 2006.

The suggestion that there has been a 'dramatic shift' in attitudes to nuclear power is not supported by the new survey results. The number opposed to nuclear power remains substantially larger than the number who support it. Only around a third of Australians (36 per cent) support the construction of nuclear power plants and the level of support has remained fairly stable since May 2006. There was a small decrease in opposition to nuclear power between December 2006 and April 2007 (from 50 per cent to 46 per cent). The proportion of Australians who are strongly opposed to nuclear power (31 per cent) is almost double that which is strongly in favour (16 per cent). It appears that the small shift in opposition has predominantly been toward being undecided rather than being in favour of nuclear power.

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