Science policy by referendum: voter choice on the California nuclear energy initiative

by Deborah R. Hensler, Carl P. Hensler


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Examines the results of a study of Californians' attitudes toward nuclear power and the nuclear power initiative. The paper attempts to draw conclusions about the public's potential role in science policymaking. Most survey respondents knew very little about nuclear power plants, but knowledge was almost entirely independent of evaluation of nuclear power. Opposition to nuclear power on the part of the average citizen is apparently not part of a strong, well-defined ideology encompassing other issue positions. There was no evidence of strong links between attitude toward nuclear power and social background. In the United States there appears to be a tendency to debate science policy issues in public and to place them before the electorate. The paper concludes that we should be doing more to understand not only what the public wants on science policy issues, but also what it knows, and why it wants what it does.

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