Report

Public Remains of Two Minds on Energy Policy

  • June 14, 2010

With the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico now nearly two months old, the public is sending mixed signals about U.S. energy policy. Despite the growing damage from the Gulf oil leak, the public generally favors continuing to drill for oil and gas in U.S. waters. And in setting priorities for energy legislation in Congress, fully 68% favor expanding exploration and development of coal, oil and gas in the United States.

Yet there also is broad support for limits on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions. And as an overall goal for U.S. energy policy, 56% say it is more important to protect the environment, while 37% say it is more important to keep energy prices low. 

The latest Pew Research/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll, sponsored by SHRM, which was conducted June 10-13 among 1,010 adults, finds that nearly two-thirds (66%) of Americans favor offshore drilling for oil and gas: 35% support continuing existing drilling but banning new drilling, while 31% favor expanding offshore drilling. Just 22% would ban offshore drilling entirely.

As in previous Pew Research Center surveys, Americans do not view energy policy as a choice between expanded production and conservation, or between traditional and alternative energy sources.

Fully 87% favor including a provision in comprehensive energy legislation to require utilities to produce more energy from wind, solar or other renewable sources. More than three-quarters (78%) favor tougher efficiency standards for building and major appliances.

By greater than two-to-one (66% to 29%), the public supports including limits on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions in comprehensive energy legislation. Yet about as many (68%) favor expanded exploration and development of coal, oil and gas in the United States.

There is less agreement about providing incentives for increased development of nuclear power as part of energy legislation. Still, slightly more favor (50%) than oppose (42%) including this proposal in the bill.

Read the full report, Public Remains of Two Minds on Energy Policy, on the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press Web site.