Nuclear debate could be confusing UK public

08 June 2007

A recent poll indicated that support for replacement nuclear energy has decreased in the UK, while opposition has remained stable and numbers unsure have increased. Observers have said that the public are becoming confused by media messages. 

The research, by Ipsos-Mori was presented by research director Robert Knight to the Nuclear Industry Forum in London on 6 June. Between 27 April and 3 May, 993 people from across Great Britain were interviewed

Support for replacing nuclear power plants that will close due to their age has dropped to 35%, from 39% in November 2006 and a high of 41% in November 2005. But the change was not mirrored by an increase in opposition, which has stayed at around 28-30% since December 2004. Instead, more people say they are unsure.

Although overall opposition to nuclear has stayed steady, there has been a fall in net support among certain groups. In November 2006, the only sector showing net opposition was women with 35% opposition and 27% support. Now, net opposition can be found in women, the age groups 15-24, 25-34 and 35-44 and the lowest D and E social groups. Most of the proportions that neither support nor oppose have increased relative to the November 2006 sample.

Forty-six percent of men support replacement new build overall (with 25% opposed), also positive on balance are the age groups 45-54, 55-64 and 65+, as well as social groups A, B, C1 and C2. Except for the C2 and 45-54 groups, the neutral portion of supportive groups also increased relative to November 2006.

Observers have suggested that these changes indicate that the public may have been confused by constant messages about energy and the environment in the mass media.

Data showed that 77% of the public know 'just a little' or less about the nuclear energy industry and that they trust very few information sources. The only significantly trustworthy sources of information were university scientists with 52% net trust and the more serious TV news and current affairs programs with 46% net trust. Environmental groups had a very slim net trust level of level of 3%.

Scientists funded by the energy industry were distrusted overall, scoring -18% net trust, while celebrity campaigners like Bob Geldof and Bono scored -10%.

Newspapers found their net trust rating to be -27%, but by far the least trusted were politicians - prime minister Tony Blair's net trust rating was -47%.

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