Nuclear Power and the Not-So-Divided Japanese Public

The news that Japan will re-start some nuclear power facilities gives us this headline in the New York Times (6/17/12):

Japan Public Still Divided as 2 Reactors to Be Opened

But the lead by reporter Martin Fackler almost immediately contradicts the “divided” headline:

TOKYO — Brushing aside widespread public opposition to avoid feared electric power shortages, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda ordered the reactivation of two nuclear reactors at a plant in western Japan on Saturday.

If there’s “widespread public opinion,” can people really be divided? It turns out this is not just a problem with a headline writer. The article later states that the “Japanese people have remained deeply divided on the safety of nuclear power.”

Have they? Fackler writes:

 According to polls, two-thirds of Japanese express deep concern about the safety of nuclear plants after last year’s accident, which contaminated food with radiation and shattered the myth of Japan’s infallible nuclear technology. The day before Mr. Noda gave the order, his government was visited by an antinuclear group led by the Nobel laureate Kenzaburo Oe, which presented what it said were the signatures of 7.5 million people calling for the abolition of nuclear power.

Two-thirds of Japan being worried about nuclear power doesn’t sound all that divided. And, as the Associated Press reported earlier this month (6/5/12), one poll showed a remarkable shift against nukes in the last year:

Japanese oppose nuclear power more strongly than they did while the tsunami-damaged Fukushima plant was still in crisis a year ago, according to a poll that found widespread dismay with the government’s handling of that disaster and the ongoing recovery.

The survey released Tuesday by the Washington-based Pew Research Center said 70 percent of Japanese believe the country should reduce its reliance on nuclear energy, up from 44 percent last year.

“Divided” appears to be used here in the special media sense of “mostly on the wrong side.”

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.