The party politics of nuclear energy: Party cues and public opinion regarding nuclear energy in Belgium

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Abstract

Political science research suggests that political party communications often have a strong effect on people’s positions on political issues. However, studies on support for nuclear energy have hitherto largely ignored partypolitical factors, especially in multiparty contexts, focusing instead on psychometric variables such as risk perception, benefit perception, and trust. This article analyzes if and how people use party cues when determining their support for nuclear energy. We conducted a public opinion survey in Belgium in 2015, which is representative for the population on age, gender, education and level of urbanization. Our results indicate that parties have a net-effect on support for nuclear energy although the effect is modest compared to the effects of the psychometric variables. Furthermore, we show that partisan cue taking occurs more amongst voters of parties that have a clear and opposing position on nuclear energy (i.e. the issue owning parties and the policy defending parties). Cue taking voters of these parties became somewhat more extreme in their support for nuclear energy in the direction advocated by their preferred party. Hence, parties seem to have a polarizing impact on public opinion on nuclear energy. Furthermore, partisan cue taking on nuclear energy occurred more amongst respondents more knowledgeable/strongly involved on the issue of nuclear than amongst those less knowledgeable/less involved.

Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)192-201
Number of pages10
JournalEnergy Research and Social Science
Volume47
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2019

Keywords

  • nuclear energy, support, political parties, elite influence, party cue taking, polarization

ID: 4508215