Understanding public opinion on nuclear energy

Millward Brown, Poland

Despite low levels of public support, the Polish government decided to develop a nuclear energy programme. To increase the level of public awareness and to foster more positive attitudes towards nuclear energy, the Ministry of Economy launched education and information campaigns. Millward Brown tracked the campaigns to inform the ongoing communications strategy and to evaluate the effectiveness of the campaigns. 

Client

Ministry of Economy, Poland

Challenge

Monitoring the effectiveness of campaigns to change public attitudes to nuclear power required a tracking study based on a high-quality, representative national sample with high-sensitivity indicators. The study investigated people’s attitudes to the development of nuclear power plants in Poland; assessed the level of public knowledge of nuclear energy; explored the public's understanding of the arguments for and against the construction of the plant; and determined the level of public acceptance of the government's plans to develop nuclear energy in Poland.

Strategy and Solution

Our methodology allowed not only the monitoring of attitudes towards nuclear power but also the formulation of an effective communications strategy. The success of the study relied on the quality of the sample and its representativeness of the entire Polish population. The structure of the sample was based on data derived from the Central Statistical Office. Our study enabled the analysis of sub-samples of particular interest, such as women, 16-29 year olds, and residents of small towns (less than 200,000 residents). The research was carried out in three waves: exploratory study (pre-test) in February/March 2012, mid-term test in November 2012, and post-test in November/December 2013.

Outcome

The results of the study strongly influenced the design of the Ministry's campaigns. For example, it revealed that Poles wanted increase their knowledge of nuclear energy, and that the issues creating the greatest fears and concerns were safety for human life and health (88%), the impact of nuclear power plant on the environment (77%), the current energy situation in Poland and the future (74%), and the ways of storage of waste from nuclear power plants (73%). The Ministry was able to design effective, ongoing communication activity to address these concerns.

According to the Government Agent for Polish Nuclear Energy: ‘The results clearly indicate that only honest and regular dialogue with society, led by all those involved in the project, will help to  rationally assess the pros and cons of nuclear energy. The study provided evidence that the Polish people expect transparent decisions on the construction of a nuclear power plant and want to be informed about it honestly'. Since the start of the informational and promotional activities, support for nuclear power has increased by 5 percentage points to 56%. This high level (56%) of support for nuclear power plants in Poland is expected at the end of the campaign in May 2014.

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