Polls one year after Fukushima disaster reflect growing rift between Japanese government and public on nuclear energy

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Concerns About Nuclear Power

The Japanese public is far more leery of nuclear power than it was in the immediate aftermath of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan’s northeast coast and critically damaged the Fukushima Daiichi power plant.

70% of Japanese say their country should reduce its reliance on nuclear energy, in a poll conducted as the country’s last nuclear power stations went offline.

Overall, the Japanese public is decidedly pessimistic about how things are going in their country.

Increased skepticism about nuclear power is coupled with widespread dissatisfaction with the government’s performance: eight-in-ten say the government has done a poor job dealing with the Fukushima crisis and six-in-ten disapprove of how Tokyo has handled the overall recovery from the earthquake and tsunami.

Fully 78% express dissatisfaction with the country’s direction, while an overwhelming 93% describe the current state of the economy as bad.

A year ago, Japanese were divided over whether the use of nuclear power in Japan should be reduced (44%) or maintained at its current level (46%). Only 8% said reliance on nuclear power should be increased.

Since then, the number who believe Japan should reduce its dependence on nuclear energy has surged to 70%, while support for maintaining nuclear power use at current levels has fallen to fewer than half that number (25%).

Just 4% of Japanese say the country should expand the use of nuclear power.

Compared with last spring, the public’s fears about radiation exposure from the Fukushima disaster have eased somewhat.

Roughly half (52%) now say they are worried that they or someone in their family may have been exposed to radiation, while 47% are unconcerned.

In spring 2011, 59% were worried about radiation risks to their families, compared with 40% who were not.

Radiation risks are a much more prominent issue for people who live near the quake zone and the damaged Fukushima nuclear reactor: 62% of residents in these areas express concerns about radiation, compared with 45% of Japanese in other regions of the country.

Worries about radiation exposure also tend to be more pronounced among Japanese with lower incomes (67%); women (61%, compared with 42% of men); older people (62% of those age 60 or over); and those with no more than a high school education (58%, compared to 44% with a college degree).

Although general fears about radiation exposure have subsided somewhat, worries persist about the safety of foods produced near the Fukushima nuclear plant.

Fully 76% of Japanese believe produce from the Fukushima area is not safe, while just 19% disagree.

Worries about contaminated food are more prevalent among Japanese with at least some university education (84%) than those with a high school education or less (71%).


Frustration With Recovery Efforts

Source: PEW Global Polling

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