Polls, politicians, and emerging technology

 Polls, politicians, and emerging technology

[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 energy can prove to be a case study for the idea that public opinion is often less a driver of public policy than a maker’s leadership. Looking at public opinion polls shows there is no great desire for the U.S. to generate more electricity from nuclear fission, despite the favorable increase. As reporter Harry Stevens recently noted on The Washington Post:

In the United States, proponents of nuclear energy have been waiting for decades for a renaissance that seems unlikely to come. Public opinion remains mixed, but young adults are less in favor of nuclear power plants than older people, according to a poll from the Pew Research Center.

And a similar, but more recent poll from Gallup:

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Although I think it is fair to say that the possibility of nuclear becoming a larger part of U.S. electricity 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 save nuclear power plants that are in danger of shutting down, ”citing the need to sustain nuclear energy as a carbon-free source of power that can help fighting climate change, “according to NBC News. And to the extent that what happens in Europe could influence politics here, there are many stories about how meeting the goals of climate change and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led to politicians pushing a nuclear renaissance there.

I think advancing technologies, in particular, are an area where public behavior – likely influenced by dystopian science fiction – can be an even worse guide for policy makers. . Another Pew poll, this one from last March, suggests the public should be wary, even if it is also open, to various technology trends.

“Vigilant openness” seems to be a public trait that politicians can work with as they consider how to promote and regulate new technology.

This article originally featured AEI ideas blog and republished with permission from the American Enterprise Institute.

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