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Americans Divided on Nuclear Energy

Americans Divided on Nuclear Energy

Story Highlights

  • 51% of Americans favor, 47% oppose nuclear energy, similar to 2019
  • Recent views contrast with 2004 to 2015, when majorities backed it
  • Republicans and independents in favor, but not Democrats

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans are evenly split on whether nuclear energy should be a source of electricity in the U.S., with 51% in favor and 47% opposed. Three years ago, the two camps were tied at 49%, while in 2016, the majority (54%) opposed nuclear power.

Americans' relatively limited support for nuclear energy in recent years contrasts with more solid backing from 2004 to 2015, when majorities of between 53% and 62% favored it.


The higher support for nuclear energy seen earlier this century was likely related to rising oil and gas pump prices in that period, making nuclear more appealing as an affordable alternative.

The latest results are based on Gallup's annual Environment survey, conducted March 1-18. Rising oil prices have also been an issue this year and may explain why support is higher now than in 2016, though it is unclear why support has not yet returned to 2009-2010 levels.

Republicans Most Supportive of Nuclear Power Among Party Groups

President Joe Biden has advocated for nuclear power as one element of his clean energy plan to get the U.S. economy to net-zero emissions by 2050. In addition to the $1.8 billion Biden allocated for nuclear reactors in his 2022 budget, the administration recently announced it will make $6 billion in infrastructure money available to nuclear power companies to help prevent closures.

Despite Biden's promotion of nuclear energy, Democrats continue to be far less likely than Republicans to favor using it. The pattern is in line with Democratic-leaning environmental groups' long-standing opposition to nuclear power; this has been focused on concerns about the environmental risks posed by nuclear waste and accidents, as well as their preference for renewable energy such as wind, solar and geothermal.

Currently, 39% of Democrats versus 60% of Republicans and 53% of independents favor nuclear energy. The 21-percentage-point gap between Republicans and Democrats is similar to the average for the past two decades.


More generally, it appears Biden has work to do to convince Americans who are highly concerned about climate change that nuclear power needs to be part of the green energy agenda. Gallup's Environment poll found that barely a third of Americans who worry "a great deal" about climate change favor the use of nuclear energy (34%), while 62% oppose it. By contrast, majorities of adults who worry "a fair amount" (53%) or less (70%) about climate change are supportive of nuclear energy.

As Gallup has found previously, support for nuclear energy also differs sharply by gender, while it varies modestly by education. Older adults are slightly more positive than those younger than 55, but differences by age have been less consistent over time.

  • Sixty-three percent of men versus 39% of women are in favor of using nuclear energy for electricity.

  • Support by education ranges from 57% of college graduates to 50% of those with some college experience and 45% of those with no college.

  • A 57% majority of adults 55 and older favor nuclear energy, compared with half of 18- to 34-year-olds and 45% of those aged 35 to 54.


Bottom Line

Americans remain divided on using nuclear energy, but support could increase as consumers face even higher gas prices than when the poll was conducted two months ago. If Biden was already inclined to advocate for nuclear power to achieve his climate goals, the political pressure presented by skyrocketing gas prices may only increase his resolve, and that, in turn, may sway some members of his own party.

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