Q. Li, M. Fuhrmann, B.R. Early, and A. Vedlitz,
"Preferences, Knowledge, and Citizen Assessments of the Terrorism Risks of Nuclear Power,"
Review of Policy Research
29(2), 207-227 (2012).
How does the American public assess risk when it comes to
national security issues? This paper addresses this question by
analyzing variation in citizen probability assessments of the
terrorism risk of nuclear power plants. Drawing on the literature
on how motivated reasoning, selective information processing, and
domain-specific knowledge influence public opinion, we argue that
heterogeneous issue preferences and knowledge of nuclear energy and
homeland security have important explanatory power. Using original
data from a unique 2009 national survey in the United States, we
show that Americans are divided in their probability assessments of
the terrorism risk of nuclear power plants. Consistent with our
theoretical expectations, individuals who support using nuclear
power to meet rising energy demands, who are generally less
concerned with terrorism, or who are more knowledgeable about
terrorism and nuclear security tend to provide lower assessments of
the likelihood that nuclear power plants increase terrorist
attacks, and vice versa. The findings have implications for the
literature on public opinion, risk assessment, energy policy and
planning, and homeland security.
Associated Project(s):SHIELD (Smuggled HEU Interdiction through Enhanced anaLysis and Detection): A Framework for Developing Novel Detection Systems Focused on Interdicting Shielded HEU