RENO -- Nevada voters remain overwhelmingly opposed to federal plans to store the nation's nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, according to a statewide poll published Tuesday.
The survey of 600 likely Nevada voters conducted for the Reno Gazette-Journal found that 76 percent oppose the project and 57 percent say the issue will be important in making their choice for president.
The survey also found that opposition to the project crosses party lines, but Democrats think it's a more important issue in the presidential election than Republicans. Seventy-four percent of Democrats said the issue is important to them in the presidential race, compared with 38 percent of Republicans.
The poll was conducted Nov. 16-19 by Maryland-based Research 2000. The margin of error is 4 percent.
"From a national perspective, any campaign that wants to win the hearts and minds of Nevada voters has to be prepared to talk about long-term radioactive storage," said GOP strategist Greg Ferraro of Reno. "These numbers will also force the candidates to look at alternatives for the waste."
Yucca Mountain has gained more attention from presidential candidates since Nevada moved up its presidential caucuses to Jan. 19, following Iowa on Jan. 3 and the New Hampshire primary on Jan. 8.
Nevada's congressional delegation is adamantly opposed to the project. Congress in 2002 picked the Yucca Mountain site about 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas to entomb 77,000 tons of spent nuclear reactor fuel.
Political analysts said the issue's importance in presidential elections has been questionable. They cite President Bush's ability to carry Nevada in 2004, despite his support of the Yucca Mountain site.
"Yucca Mountain is not going to swing it for them from one candidate to another," said Eric Herzik, a political science professor at the University of Nevada, Reno.
"Among Democrats, this is a far more salient issue. There is no nuance allowed. ... Republicans, even those who are opposed to Yucca Mountain, are not as adamant as are the Democrats," he said.
Every Democratic presidential candidate has come out against Yucca Mountain, but Rep. Ron Paul is the only Republican candidate to come out strongly against it.
The Department of Energy is preparing a license application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to construct the project.