Partisanship, Information, and Public Opinion about Yucca Mountain

Nowlin, Matthew C. 2015. “Partisanship, Information, and Public Opinion about Yucca Mountain.’’ In Proceedings of the 15th International High-Level Radioactive Waste Management Conference, 226-231. American Nuclear Society.


The knowledge deficit model posits that differences in opinions between experts and the mass public about sci- entifically and technically complex issues can be over- come by providing information to the public. Using a na- tionwide sample of the US population from March 2002, this paper examines the knowledge deficit model as a Bayesian learning model. I find that, contrary to the standard knowledge deficit model, respondents did not up- date their priors or process information in an unbiased way, but rather that Democrats and Republicans varied in the weight they attached to the information and in their overall support for Yucca Mountain. I conclude with a discussion of the continued utility offered by the knowledge deficit model, particularly when expressed as a Bayesian learning model.