FEAR of global warming has dramatically reversed Australians’ attitude to nuclear energy, with more people supporting nuclear power for the first time. In the past four months, support for nuclear power has risen from just 35 per cent to 45 per cent, and opposition has fallen in the same time from 50 per cent to 40 per cent.
Actually, what this poll shows is that if you put the magic words ‘greenhouse gas emissions’ in the question you increase support for nuclear power. Back in June last year, Roy Morgan Research asked the question:
Do you approve or disapprove of nuclear power plants replacing coal, oil, and gas power plants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?
And found that 49% approved and 37% disapproved. In December 2006, Newspoll, after reminding respondents that there was a nuclear reactor at Lucas Heights but no nuclear power station in Australia, asked:
Are you personally in favour or against nuclear power stations being built in Australia?
The result was 38% in favour and 51% against.
In the latest Newspoll, the question changed:
Are you personally in favour or against the development of a nuclear power industry in Australia, as one of a range of energy solutions to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions?
The result was 45% in favour and 40% against – closer to the June 2006 Roy Morgan survey that also mentioned greenhouse than to the December 2006 Newspoll that did not. This indicates that there is a section of the electorate that is willing to accept the logic of their views on global warming, and change their otherwise negative view of nuclear energy. But this is still dangerous political territory for the Prime Minister, with overall support below 50% and 11% of Coalition voters ‘strongly against’ a nuclear power industry.
8 March update: A new Morgan Poll confirms that opinion is stable on this issue, with recent debates having no net effect.