Consumers strongly support increased production of energy from domestic sources, particularly natural gas and renewables, according to the University of Texas at Austin Energy Poll that was released today. This is the second release of the poll, a twice-annual national online survey of energy issues.
The poll also offered insights in how energy issues may affect the upcoming presidential election, with more than 65 percent 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 percent 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 percent 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 percent 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 percent.
Survey participants remain very concerned about the high cost of gasoline, with nearly 90 percent 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.
“We see a significant trend of increased pricing concerns and more support for domestic energy production across the board in this survey,” said Wayne Hoyer, co-director of the survey and professor and marketing department chair at the McCombs School of Business. “While most respondents expect prices to continue rising, they’re also more optimistic about our energy future, perhaps because of the abundance of natural gas and other domestic energy resources. These trends will be interesting to watch as we head into this fall’s elections.”
Despite intense media coverage of hydraulic fracturing, 62 percent of survey participants say they are unfamiliar with the practice or have never heard of it. Of the 32 percent who are familiar with hydraulic fracturing, support outweighed opposition, 48 percent to 36 percent. When asked to describe how they feel about the regulation of hydraulic fracturing:
- 38 percent favor more regulation.
- 14 percent say the technology is already over-regulated.
- 22 percent think existing regulations are sufficient but need better enforcement.
- 16 percent believe existing regulation and enforcement are sufficient.
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 percent compared with 38 percent last fall. Half of the survey respondents say they are not environmentalists, while 37 percent describe themselves as “passive” and 8 percent as “active” environmentalists.
Other findings in the poll include:
- 65 percent of respondents say global climate change is occurring; 22 percent say it is not.
- Participants cite deforestation (70 percent) and fossil fuels (65 percent) as the most significant contributing factors in global climate change.
- The energy resources seen as providing the most jobs are oil, 34 percent; renewable energy, 13 percent; coal, 12 percent; natural gas, 11 percent; and nuclear, 3 percent.
- The number of consumers likely to seek more information about global energy issues in the next six months has declined, from 60 percent of respondents last fall to 37 percent.
For a webcast of today’s presentation of poll findings, charts of the results and more information, visit www.utenergypoll.utexas.edu.
The University of Texas at Austin Energy Poll, developed by the McCombs School of Business’ Energy Management and Innovation Center, seeks to provide an objective, authoritative look at consumer attitudes and perspectives on key energy issues. It is designed to help inform national discussion, business planning and policy development. Conducted biannually, the online poll rates leadership on energy issues, measures consumers’ energy priorities, and tracks knowledge and energy consumption behaviors. The poll is a collaborative effort of academics, polling experts, nongovernmental organizations, large energy users and energy producers.
The University of Texas at Austin Energy Poll reflects the views of 2,371 Americans surveyed during March 5-16, 2012. The data were weighted using U.S. Census Bureau figures, as well as propensity scores, to ensure the sample’s composition reflects the actual U.S. population.