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Sunday, March 25, 2012

What Americans Think About Energy

Previous posts have examined opinions on energy. Gallup reports:
Americans are about as likely to say production of energy supplies (47%) should be prioritized as to say environmental protection (44%) should be, a closer division than last year, when energy led by 50% to 41%. These views mark a shift compared with the early 2000s, when Americans consistently assigned a higher priority to environmental protection

The greater preference for energy production over environmental protection in recent years likely results from the economic downturn, given that Americans have made economic matters their highest priority. There was a brief exception in the spring of 2010, however, after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill brought environmental issues back to the forefront.
Although Americans still view the economy as their No. 1 concern, they perceive the economy to be improving. In this context, the public is now about evenly divided on whether energy development or the environment should be given priority.
Gallup also reports:
As gas prices continue to rise in the United States, 42% of Americans describe the energy situation as "very serious," slightly above the historical average of 38%, but lower than at several other points since Gallup first asked the question in 1977.

The high point in energy concern, 58%, came in May 2001, another time of rising gas prices, which were contemporaneous with rolling blackouts in California due to energy shortages.
Usually, at least 40% of Americans have said the energy situation was very serious during times of higher gas prices, such as in 1979, 2008, and this year. However, the current percentage of 42% is slightly lower than what Gallup measured last year (45%), in 2008 (46%), and in 1979 (47%).
The low point in perceptions of the energy situation as very serious, 22%, came in 2002.
The gasoline  issue illustrates how slight differences in question wording can affect results.  CBS/NY Times asked: "Is the price of gasoline something a president can do a lot about, or is that beyond any president's control?" By a 54-36 margin, respondents said that a president can do a lot about the prices. ABC/Washington Post asked: "Do you think there's anything the Obama administration reasonably can do to reduce gasoline prices, or do you think gas prices have risen because of factors beyond the administration's control?"  This time, the margin was closer with a 50-45 split saying that the administration could do something.  The latter question referred specifically to the "Obama administration" and asking whether it could "reasonably do" something.