By Mark Flanagan
We’ve wondered whether all the attention given nuclear energy in the wake of the loan guarantee announcement would move polling numbers a bit. Whatever else may be true, President Obama remains a popular figure when he gets in front of an issue and he was front and center on this one.
Gallup begins to answer the question:
A majority of Americans have typically favored using nuclear power to provide electricity for the United States since Gallup began asking about this topic in 1994. Support has edged up in the last two years, eclipsing 60% this year for the first time. In addition, 28% of Americans now say they "strongly favor" nuclear power, also the highest Gallup has measured since the question was first asked in 1994.
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We love polls and their “strongly favored” construction. If you don’t care for nuclear energy, it allows you to say that 72% do not strongly favor it. (To be fair, no one we’re aware of really tries out such a tactic – at least, not on this issue.)
The chart on the page is interesting, showing nuclear slowly losing favor from 1994 to 2001 (Clinton-Gore) and rising thereafter (Bush-Cheney, Obama-Biden). We can’t really say that the Presidents (or veeps, in the case of Gore) were determinative in forming opinion – and Gallup doesn’t - but it’s an interesting coincidence. (Another possibility: Chernobyl was still a fairly fresh memory in 1994.)
But where Obama has not been effective on this issue is with his base, Democrats, which has remained at 51% favorable for over a decade. This is an issue that resonates with Republicans and may point to the play Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) gave the issue during the 2008 Presidential campaign and perhaps also to the frequent mention of it in Congress during the energy bill debates. Republican support rose from 61% in 2007 to 74% now.
Still, both groups are over the magic 50% mark, which allows us to continue asserting that this has become (and has been, for quite awhile) a bipartisan issue. Gallup shows it, Congress and the President show that they know it.