Get access

The Impact of Accident Attention, Ideology, and Environmentalism on American Attitudes Toward Nuclear Energy


  • John C. Besley,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Advertising and Public Relations, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA
    • Address correspondence to John Besley, Department of Advertising and Public Relations, Michigan State University, 404 Wilson Road, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA; tel: +1-517-884-4411;

    Search for more papers by this author
  • Sang-Hwa Oh

    1. School of Journalism and Mass Communications, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC, USA
    Search for more papers by this author


This study involves the analysis of three waves of survey data about nuclear energy using a probability-based online panel of respondents in the United States. Survey waves included an initial baseline survey conducted in early 2010, a follow-up survey conducted in 2010 following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and an additional follow-up conducted just after the 2011 Fukushima, Japan, nuclear accident. The central goal is to assess the degree to which changes in public views following an accident are contingent on individual attention and respondent predispositions. Such results would provide real-world evidence of motivated reasoning. The primary analysis focuses on the impact of Fukushima and how the impact of individual attention to energy issues is moderated by both environmental views and political ideology over time. The analysis uses both mean comparisons and multivariate statistics to test key relationships. Additional variables common in the study of emerging technologies are included in the analysis, including demographics, risk and benefit perceptions, and views about the fairness of decisionmakers in both government and the private sector.