Polls, politicians, and emerging technology

Polls, politicians, and emerging technology

  • Technology
  • May 13, 2022
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  • 6 minutes read

[This article has been published in Restoring America to consider how politicians might lead the public towards an embrace of nuclear energy, which would allow the U.S. to become more energy independent].

Nuclear power may turn out to be a case study for the idea that public opinion is often less a driver of public policy than the leadership of policymakers. A look at public opinion polls does not show a strong desire for the US to generate more electricity from nuclear fission, although favorability has increased. As journalist Harry Stevens recently pointed out The Washington Post:

In the United States, proponents of nuclear power have been waiting for decades for a renaissance that never seems to come. Public opinion remains mixed, but younger adults are less supportive of nuclear power plants than older people, according to the Pew Research Center survey.

And a similar, but more recent, survey by Gallup:

Screenshot from 13/05/2022 at 13.16.29.png

However, I think it’s fair to say that the chances of nuclear power becoming a bigger part of U.S. energy production could increase. For example: Los Angeles Times
recently reported that California Gov. Gavin Newsom is open to the possibility of delaying the closure of the state’s last operating nuclear power plant, Diablo Canyon. Newsom’s thinking is linked to an effort by the Biden administration to rescue nuclear power plants at risk of closure, “citing the need to continue nuclear power as a carbon-free energy source that helps combat change “According to NBC News. And to the extent that what happens in Europe can influence politics here, there have been numerous stories about how meeting the goals of climate change and the invasion of Ukraine by Russia are causing politicians to push for a nuclear renaissance there. .

I believe that emerging technologies, in particular, are an area where public attitudes, probably influenced by dystopian science fiction, can be a particularly poor guide for policymakers. Another Pew survey, this past March, suggests public caution, though also openness, in a number of emerging technologies.

“Cautionary openness” seems like a public attitude that politicians can work with as they consider how to promote and regulate new technology.

This article originally appeared in AEIdees blog and is reprinted with the kind permission of the American Enterprise Institute.

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