A Comparative Study of Public Beliefs about Five Energy Systems

Thomas, K., Maurer, D., Fishbein, M., Otway, H.J., Hinkle, R., & Simpson, D. (1979). A Comparative Study of Public Beliefs about Five Energy Systems. IIASA Working Paper. IIASA, Laxenburg, Austria: WP-79-005

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Public perceptions (n=244) of five alternative energy sources (nuclear, coal, oil, hydro, and solar) were examined using an attitude model based upon the underlying beliefs held about the attitude object (e.g., each energy system); the focus was on the differing perceptions of sub-groups (n=50) most PRO and CON the use of nuclear energy.

Both PRO and CON groups preferred hydro and solar energy to the other energy sources; but the PRO Nuclear Group preferred nuclear energy to the fossil fuels while, for the CON Nuclear Group, nuclear energy was the least preferred system. Of the theoretically possible significant contributors to near-term Austrian electricity supply which were considered in this study (i.e., nuclear, coal, oil), the PRO Nuclear Group saw oil as the alternative to nuclear energy while the CON Nuclear Group preferred coal to oil as the non-nuclear alternative.

Factor analysis found that five, relatively independent belief dimensions characterize public thinking about energy systems: beliefs about future-oriented and political risks; economic benefits; environmental risks; psychological/physical risks; and future technology development. Analysis of the belief systems suggested that both PRO and CON Nuclear Groups preferred hydro and solar energy because these systems were perceived as being the least threatening on all risk-related dimensions. The PRO group saw nuclear energy as the system most likely to lead to economic benefits and future technological developments; their low ratings of fossil fuels were primarily due to beliefs that the fossil fuels could provide only marginal economic benefits while leading to appreciable environmental risks. In contrast, the CON group viewed nuclear energy as only marginally more likely to provide economic and technological benefits than the fossil fuels, but as an appreciably greater threat on the risk-related dimensions.

Item Type: Monograph (IIASA Working Paper)
Research Programs: Energy Program (ENP)
Depositing User: IIASA Import
Date Deposited: 15 Jan 2016 01:46
Last Modified: 27 Aug 2021 17:09
URI: https://pure.iiasa.ac.at/1178

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