UT Austin poll finds majority support development of natural gas and renewables; declining support for environmental issues
The University of Texas at Austin Energy Poll has found that US consumers strongly support increased production of energy from domestic sources, particularly natural gas and renewables. This is the second release of the poll, a twice-annual national online survey of energy issues.
Support for environmental issues declined from last fall’s Energy Poll on virtually every measure. For example, asked to choose between economic growth or environmental protection, more consumers preferred growth; six months ago the responses were more evenly split. Significantly fewer consumers say they are willing to pay much higher prices to protect the environment, at 30% compared with 38% last fall. Half of the survey respondents say they are not environmentalists, while 37% describe themselves as “passive” and 8% as “active” environmentalists.
The poll also offered insights in how energy issues may affect the upcoming presidential election, with more than 65% of the 2,371 poll respondents saying that energy is important to them. Respondents generally favor candidates whose policies would increase domestic energy production, and expanded natural gas development had the most support among consumers, with 61% saying they would be more likely to vote for a presidential candidate who backs this issue.
Consumers also support an increase in renewable forms of energy, with 59% saying they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who supports additional financial incentives for companies engaged in renewable technologies, as well as a candidate who would require utilities to obtain a designated percentage of their electricity from renewable sources.
Half of the consumers surveyed are in favor of candidates who support approval of the Keystone XL pipeline to transport oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast, and 46% say they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who supports expanded offshore oil development in the Gulf of Mexico. Support for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge edges out opposition, 38% to 32%.
Survey participants remain very concerned about the high cost of gasoline, with nearly 90% saying they expect prices at the pump to rise during the next six months, an expectation that is particularly strong among Republican voters. More than four out of five consumers also expect their total household energy expenditures to increase.
Despite media coverage of hydraulic fracturing, 62% of survey participants say they are unfamiliar with the practice or have never heard of it. Of the 32% who are familiar with hydraulic fracturing, support outweighed opposition, 48% to 36%. When asked to describe how they feel about the regulation of hydraulic fracturing:
- 38% favor more regulation
- 14% say the technology is already over-regulated
- 22% think existing regulations are sufficient but need better enforcement
- 16% believe existing regulation and enforcement are sufficient
Other findings in the poll include:
65% of respondents say global climate change is occurring; 22% say it is not. Participants cite deforestation (70%) and fossil fuels (65%) as the most significant contributing factors in global climate change.
The energy resources seen as providing the most jobs are oil, 34%; renewable energy, 13%; coal, 12%; natural gas, 11%; and nuclear, 3%.
The number of consumers likely to seek more information about global energy issues in the next six months has declined, from 60% of respondents last fall to 37%.
The University of Texas at Austin Energy Poll reflects the views of 2,371 Americans surveyed during 5-16 March 2012. The data were weighted using US Census Bureau figures, as well as propensity scores, to ensure the sample’s composition reflects the actual US population.