Pain at the Pump Raises Support for Domestic Drilling

WASHINGTON, DC, July 7, 2008 (ENS) – As gas prices soar to record highs across the United States, public support for more energy exploration is also rising, according to a new public opinion poll conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.

A few months ago, fewer Americans gave a high priority to energy exploration, and more favored conservation. But the survey, conducted June 18-29 among 2,004 adults, found that an increasing proportion says developing new sources of energy – rather than protecting the environment – is the more important national priority.

Nearly half of those polled (47 percent) now rates energy exploration as the more important priority, up from 35 percent in February.

The proportion saying it is more important to increase energy conservation and regulation has declined by 10 points (from 55 percent to 45 percent).

The poll also finds that half of the Americans surveyed now support drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, up from 42 percent in February.

Gas prices – going up.
(Photo credit unknown)

The public’s changing energy priorities are most evident in the growing percentage that views increased energy exploration – including mining and drilling, as well as the construction of new power plants – as a more important priority for energy policy than increased conservation and regulation.

In surveys dating to 2001, majorities or pluralities had consistently said that greater energy conservation and regulation on energy use and prices was more important than increased energy exploration, the Pew Research Center says.

Much of the increase in support for energy exploration has come among groups that previously viewed this as a less important priority than energy conservation – young people, liberals, independents, Democrats, women and people who have attended college.

Half of young people ages 18 to 29 now say expanding energy exploration is a more important priority for energy policy than increasing energy conservation and regulation. Only about a quarter of young people (26 percent) expressed this view in February.

The proportion of liberals who say expanded energy exploration is the more important priority also has doubled (from 22 percent to 45 percent).

The gender gap in attitudes about whether greater exploration or greater conservation is the more important priority has disappeared, as women have become much more supportive of expanded exploration (up 18 points).

About the same proportions of Democrats (46 percent) and Republicans (43 percent) now say expanded exploration, rather than increased conservation, should take precedence. In February, far more Republicans than Democrats expressed this view.

In contrast with overall opinions about energy exploration, views about drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, ANWR, remain politically divided.

As was the case in February, about twice as many Republicans as Democrats favor drilling in ANWR (75 percent vs 36 percent).

Support for oil and gas drilling in the Alaska wildlife refuge has increased sharply among Republicans (12 points), but only modestly among Democrats (five points).

Support for ANWR energy drilling has increased across age groups, but Americans ages 65 and older continue to support this at much higher levels than do those younger than 30 (62 percent vs. 37 percent).

More women favor ANWR drilling than in February, the survey shows, but women continue to be less supportive of drilling for oil and gas in the Alaska wildlife refuge than men (45 percent vs 56 percent).

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