Partisan Amplification of Risk: American Perceptions of Nuclear Energy Risk in the Wake of the Fukushima Daiichi Disaster

Abstract:

Aim: This study examines risk perceptions toward nuclear power before and after the Fukushima Daiichi disaster using nationally representative survey samples of American adults. Scope: On March 11, 2011, a magnitude 8.4 earthquake, the largest in the nation’s history, occurred off the coast of Japan. The earthquake produced a devastating tsunami that flooded areas of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant and resulted in a loss of power to the plant’s cooling system. In the weeks that followed, the world watched as Japanese and international nuclear power safety experts scrambled to contain the damage and prevent a full meltdown. Although the Fukushima Daiichi disaster was heavily covered in media, there is little empirical research on how this coverage impacted audience risk perceptions. Our analysis goes beyond examining aggregate risk perceptions, instead focusing on how specific sub-populations responded to the disaster. Conclusion: We found that ideological groups responded differently to the events in Japan. In particular, risk perceptions among conservatives decreased following the incident. Moreover, we found that media use exacerbated these effects. We discuss possible explanations for these findings

Full Paper

Yeo, Sara K., Cacciatore, Michael A., Brossard, Dominique, Scheufele, Dietram A., Runge, Kristin K., Su, Leona Yi-Fan, Kim, Jiyoun, Xenos, Michael, Corley, Elizabeth A. (2014). Partisan Amplification of Risk: American Perceptions of Nuclear Energy Risk in the Wake of the Fukushima Daiichi Disaster. Energy Policy, 67, 727-736.