Americans Split on Whether to Prioritize Environmental Protection or Energy Production

Unlike last year, Americans are about as likely to say they want to protect energy production as they are to say they want to protect the environment, according to new results provided by Gallup.

In the results based on phone interviews conducted over the weekend of March 8 to 11, 47% of Americans answered that they thought the production of energy supplies was more important than protecting the environment, whereas 44% reversed the statement.

This is up from results garnered in 2011 which saw a split of 50% to 41%.

Gallup has stated both years that 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.” Unsurprisingly, however, there was a brief lull in this trend following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

This year, Americans still view the economy as their number one concern, but they also agree that the economy seems to be improving, allowing for room to increase the importance of the environment.

Unsurprisingly, Republicans and Democrats disagree

The results of the survey found that Republicans favour energy development over environmental protection by 68% to 24%, while Democrats reverse the results 56% to 34%. In the middle, Independents were closer to Democrats, with 49% prioritizing environmental protection over 41% energy production.

Looking back ten years, all groups have favoured energy prioritization, but none more so than Republicans.

Not All Energy Prioritization Need Be Bad

When provided with options to address the country’s energy problems, Americans often favour a more environmentally friendly solution than not.

Americans are nearly twice as likely to say their leaders should focus on developing alternative energy supplies such as wind and solar power at 59% compared to increasing production of oil, gas, and coal supplies at 34%.

Gallup found a 66% to 26% margin in favor of alternative energy among all Americans last year, the first time the question was asked.

More good news in the same vein is that more Americans believe that the focus should be on individual consumer conservation of energy supplies rather than a desire to produce more oil, gas, and coal supplies. However this year’s 11 point gap in favour of conservation – 51% to 40% – is still drastically lower than it was over the period of time between 2001 to 2008 where it averaged just under 30 points in favour of conservation.

According to Gallup, “the reduced gap in favor of conservation is due mostly to Republicans’ changing preferences. Republicans currently prefer energy production by 63% to 29%. In 2002, Republicans said conservation should be emphasized over production, by 53% to 35%.

“Independents have shifted slightly away from conservation, while Democrats’ preferences are essentially the same as they were 10 years ago.”

Source: Gallup

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