Environment

How opposed to nuclear energy are liberals?

Gene ExpressionBy Razib KhanJun 17, 2013 4:19 AM

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has a piece with the title A Rebel Filmmaker Tilts Conservative. What conservative tilt is being displayed here? It's Pandora's Promise, a film which serves as a sort apologia for nuclear power from environmentalists concerned about climate change. What confuses me is that I don't understand the specifically conservative tilt here, as I have many friends who evince a nuclear-friendly tilt without seeming politically conservative. Perhaps a generation ago anti-nuclear sentiment was strongly ideological colored, but more recently there has been a boomlet on the enviro-Left in favor of nuclear energy. The GSS has two variables which query this issue crossed with ideology rather well. Here's the query so you can replicate: Row: NUKEELEC NUKEGEN Column: POLVIEWS(r:1-3"Liberal";4"Moderate";5-7"Conservative") Selection filter(s): year(2010-*)

The New York Times

As you can see liberals do tend to be more skeptical of nuclear energy, but it is not stark. In fact, attitudes toward nuclear power seem to be as strongly, if not more so, variant on a populist vs. elite axis than conventional ideology. Here's the second question replicated for education:

Views on nuclear energy N ~ 400

LibModCons

Strongly favor161312

Favor495064

Oppose282716

Strongly oppose798

Nuclear power dangerous to the environment N ~ 1300

LibModCons

Extremely dangerous262316

Very dangerous252923

Somewhat dangerous333231

Not very dangerous141322

Not dangerous338

But, when you look only at college educated individuals the ideology divide doesn't go away. In fact, it seems more extreme.

Nuclear power dangerous to the environment N ~ 1300

No collegeCollege

Extremely dangerous2611

Very dangerous2721

Somewhat dangerous3134

Not very dangerous1128

Not dangerous47

That's strong circumstantial evidence that the gap here is one of cultural norms and values, and not facts.

Nuclear power dangerous to the environment N ~ 370

College educated only

LibModCons

Extremely dangerous14165

Very dangerous282214

Somewhat dangerous383528

Not very dangerous152442

Not dangerous5411

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