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Public opinion change after the Fukushima nuclear accident: The role of national context revisited

Edwin Latré, Tanja Perko and Peter Thijssen

Energy Policy, 2017, vol. 104, issue C, 124-133

Abstract: This study explores how national context moderated change in support for nuclear energy after the Fukushima accident. The following national contextual variables are tested: geographical distance, nuclear energy production status, freedom of the press, and the building of new nuclear reactors. The results illustrate that previous research has misunderstood the moderating role of national context on opinion change after the Fukushima accident. A survey conducted shortly after the accident with more than 23,000 respondents from 41 countries has shown that geographical distance from the accident mattered: Contradicting a previous study, the decrease in support for nuclear energy was stronger in countries closer to Fukushima. In addition, support for nuclear energy decreased more in countries where new nuclear reactors were under construction. The country's nuclear energy production status and press freedom did not determine opinion change after the Fukushima accident. The non-effect of freedom of the press on opinion change contradicts the role of media after a focusing event as described in the literature. Overall results demonstrate a limited effect of national context on opinion change following a focusing event. Hence, national context provides only limited information to policy makers on how to respond to a nuclear accident.

Keywords: Nuclear energy; Opinion change; Fukushima; National context; Distance; New build (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2017
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