55% of Americans who responded to a recent Gallup poll say they “strongly” or “somewhat” favor the use of nuclear power to generate electricity in the U.S.
The total marks a four-percentage-point uptick from one year ago and represents the highest percentage in favor of nuclear since 2012.
Another 44% of poll respondents “strongly” or “somewhat” oppose such use.
More specifically, the poll, conducted March 1-23, 2023, found 25% of Americans “strongly favor” nuclear energy and 30% “somewhat favor” it, while 22% each strongly and somewhat oppose its usage.
Gallup notes that throughout the history of this poll, Americans have generally been more open to the use of nuclear energy when oil prices have been high and less open to it when oil prices have been low.
Gallup first asked this question in 1994 and found 57% of Americans favored using nuclear energy, while 37% were opposed to its use. By 2001, when the question was next asked, views were evenly divided — yet from 2004 through 2015, public support for the use of nuclear power again outpaced opposition, including a high of 62% in 2010.
The 2016 measurement, taken at a time of relatively low gas prices, was the only one in the trend when most U.S. adults who were polled expressed opposition to the use of nuclear energy. After two readings when views were divided, in 2019 and 2022, Americans now tilt once again toward support.
The pollster says history shows the majority opposition to nuclear energy could return if gas prices eventually revert to relatively low levels. However, high gas prices combined with strong political backing by one or both parties could mean support persists for the foreseeable future.
Views of nuclear differ by political affiliation, gender and education level
The Biden Administration has said that nuclear power is a key element to an overall climate strategy of achieving 100% clean electricity in the U.S. by 2035. The administration has committed over $1 billion to help keep U.S. nuclear power plants open and is also supportive of the development of smaller advanced reactors.
Investing in nuclear energy also has bipartisan support in Congress.
Currently, 62% of Republicans, 46% of Democrats and 56% of independents favor the use of nuclear energy, according to Gallup. Republican support for nuclear energy was once as high as 76% in 2009. Democrats also recorded their highest support, 54%, that year.
Democrats’ support has increased since last year, while Republicans’ and independents’ views have not changed statistically.
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