46.6% support the idea of construction, and 37.7% have the opposite opinion
From September 22 to October 4, 2023, DEMOSCOPE Bureau of Public Opinion Express Monitoring with the support of Konrad Adenauer Foundation, together with the PAPERLAB Research Center conducted a survey on What People in Kazakhstan Think of the Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) Construction.
The results of the DEMOSCOPE survey show a significant division of public opinion on the construction of nuclear power plants in Kazakhstan. 46.6% of respondents support this initiative. Of these, 30.8% unequivocally support and 15.8% rather support. While 37.7% express the opposite opinion: 25% do not support the idea of construction at all and 12.7% rather do not support it. It is interesting to note that the share of citizens who have clearly expressed their position for or against this issue dominates.
At the same time, one of the key factors influencing the perception of NPP construction is the degree of awareness of the population. It is characteristic that 36.8% of Kazakhstanis do not know anything and have not heard about the government’s plans to build a nuclear power plant. At the same time, 34.1% are well informed and 29.1% have heard something, but do not know the details.
It is also important to find out the motives of those who support or, on the contrary, do not support the construction of NPPs in Kazakhstan. Therefore, respondents who spoke for or against were asked an additional question.
The reasons for supporting the construction of NPPs include solving the problem of electricity shortage (51.5%), reducing electricity tariffs (10.6%), developing new technologies and sharing knowledge (8.7%), using clean power and reducing environmental damage (7.8%), as well as strengthening the international image of Kazakhstan (6.3%).
Arguments against the construction of nuclear power plants include the risk of accidents and radiation leaks (47.9%), environmental consequences, including the shallowing of Lake Balkhash and others (31.3%), the risk of corruption during construction (7.4%), lack of professionals and relevant experience (6.7%), as well as the high cost of construction and the burden on the country’s budget (5%).
The study also revealed that the shortage of electricity in the country is an extremely important problem for the majority of Kazakhstanis, while many have already experienced power outages. This may explain the high level of support for the construction of NPPs among those who see it as a solution to this problem.
Thus, more than 70% of people consider the problem of electricity shortage relevant and only 20% as irrelevant.
Moreover, over the past 12 months, the majority of Kazakhstanis (60.9%) have experienced power outages. Of these, 44.3% mentioned that it happened several times, and 16.6% answered “regularly”. At the same time, 38.8% of respondents did not face such a problem. It is predicted that in the context of a city/village, power outages are more often encountered in villages – a total of 67.9% and 57.2% in cities.
In early September, during the annual address, President Tokayev proposed holding a referendum on the construction of a nuclear power plant. One of the tasks of the DEMOSCOPE survey was to analyze the potential turnout, as well as the level of citizens’ confidence in the results of the referendum.
The survey data showed an average level of potential turnout. If the referendum is held in the next 1 or 2 months, 31.2% said they would definitely participate in it and 14.4% would rather do it. At the same time, a fifth of respondents (19.8%) definitely will not go to vote and 12.3% will rather not go, and 18.8% have not yet decided whether they will take part in the referendum.
A very important marker of public perception is confidence in the results of the referendum on the construction of the NPP. More than half of the citizens (56.9%) believe that the results of the popular vote are more likely to be trusted, and 10.7% are convinced that it is absolutely possible to trust. They are opposed by a total of one third of respondents (32.4%) who expressed distrust of the results of the upcoming referendum. 20.6% of them do not trust at all and 11.8% rather do not trust.
The negotiations with companies from different countries for the construction of a nuclear power plant in Kazakhstan are underway. In the context of the geopolitical crisis, choosing a partner becomes an important strategic step. The results of the survey showed the absence of a clear preference among Kazakhstanis:
- Russian company – 23.3%
- South Korean company – 19.7%
- Chinese company – 7.2%
- French company – 4.5%
- A company from another country – 5.3%.
It is significant that in the context of the language of the answers, the respondents’ opinion differs significantly. So, three times more respondents who answered in Russian spoke for cooperation with Russia – 33.5% and 11.3% in Kazakh. On the contrary, much more Kazakh-speaking citizens were for the partnership with South Korea (24.7%) and only 15.9% of those responded in Russian.
The DEMOSCOPE study demonstrated a lack of public awareness of the government’s plans for the construction of NPPs. Obviously, the state needs to conduct more open information campaigns among the population, providing access to objective data and taking into account the opinion of citizens.
Press releases and infographics in Kazakh and Russian are available here: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1Ibpj22mgwGb0lhx6Pi8qFKFkaJtGCjwX?usp=sharing
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Methodology: From September 22 to October 4, 2023, 1,100 people were interviewed in 17 regions and cities (Astana, Almaty, Shymkent) of Kazakhstan. The poll was conducted by telephone interviews among mobile subscribers in Kazakhstan. The sample was based on a database of numbers obtained using a random number generator. The telephone survey was carried out by KT CloudLab Contact Center. 57% of men and 43% of women over the age of 18 took part in the survey. 53% preferred to answer in Kazakh, 47% replied in Russian. 72.3% of respondents were Kazakhs, 14.8% were Russians, and 11.9% were representatives of other nationalities. The data was weighted by parameters such as gender and age of respondents. The maximum margin of error with a 95% probability did not exceed 3%. The respondents’ response rate was 20%.
The survey was implemented by MediaNet International Center of Journalism with the support of Konrad Adenauer Foundation. The survey data reflect the respondents’ point of view. For more information, please contact the project coordinator Snezhana Tsoy: firstname.lastname@example.org.