In the wake of the most serious nuclear crisis since Chernobyl in 1986, public opposition to nuclear power is mounting, the Pew Research Center reports. In a nationally representative survey only 39 percent of Americans said they supported "increased use" of nuclear power, with 52 percent saying that they are opposed.
Naturally, the panicked reports arriving from the radiation leakages at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear power station have presumably contributed to the rise in opposition. But if you look at the polling trends on the Pew chart below, the public's opposition doesn't appear as dramatic as the sharp political calls to cease reliance on the energy source would indicate. In fact, given the tremendous media coverage of Japan's nuclear leak in the past weeks, maybe these numbers aren't all that impressive.
Pew's poll numbers arrive on the heels of last week's Gallup/USA Today survey, which found that 47 percent of Americans are opposed to building new nuclear plants after hearing reports from Fukushima. Interestingly, the Gallup/USA Today poll detailed the "ebb and flow" of public support for nuclear power after the stateside crisis at Three Mile Island (pictured above in 2011) and in Chernobyl:
Surveys in the early 1970s found support as high as 70% for increased reliance on nuclear power, but that number slid to around 40% in 1979 after the partial meltdown at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in Pennsylvania. Support rebounded then dropped again after the 1986 meltdown at the Chernobyl plant in Ukraine. In recent years, it has hovered around 50%.