Gallup Finds Americans Prioritize Energy Over Environment for First Time in 10 Years of Poll Question
Americans are more likely to say the US should prioritize development of energy supplies than to say it should prioritize protecting the environment, according to a recent Gallup poll. This is the first time in this question’s 10-year history that more have favored energy production over environmental protection.
The 4-7 March Gallup poll was conducted a few weeks before President Obama came out in favor of oil exploration off some sections of the US coast (earlier post), and shortly after he advocated the expanded use of nuclear power in the United States.
The current data represent a continuing shift in opinion toward energy production, Gallup said. Since 2007, when Americans’ preferences for environmental protection were the greatest (58% to 34%), Americans’ opinions have shown significant movement each year in the direction of prioritizing energy production. This change has been evident among nearly every major demographic subgroup, although self-identified liberals have remained relatively steadfast in saying the environment should be a higher priority.
|Click to enlarge.|
At the same time, Americans continue to advocate greater energy conservation by consumers (52%) over greater production of oil, gas, and coal supplies (36%) as a means of solving the nation’s energy problems. Americans have always come out in favor of greater consumer conservation, though this year marks the highest percentage favoring production (by a percentage point) in the last 10 years.
- 33% describe the energy situation in the United States as “very serious,” down from 42% last year and the lowest since 2005.
- 45% expect the US to face a critical energy shortage in the next five years, down sharply from 62% in 2008, when gas prices were soaring, and the lowest Gallup has measured in the last 10 years.
Gallup suggested that one possible explanation for the greater public priority on energy production at a time of diminished concern about energy is that Americans typically become somewhat less likely to say they favor environmental protection during down economic times. In the same March 4-7 poll, Gallup also found a new high in the percentage of Americans favoring economic growth over environmental protection.
Results are based on telephone interviews with a random sample of 1,014 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted 4-7 March 2010. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.