Pollsters keeping asking this summer about coastal drilling, and support has certainly risen in the wake of a coordinated conservative propaganda campaign and the absence of an effective coordinated response. Blaring headlines have followed: “Americans favor offshore drilling!”
But there is other poll data that indicates such support is not terribly deep, and pales in comparison to support for investment in clean energy and energy-efficiency.
1. Yesterday’s CNN poll found 69% supported coastal drilling, but only 51% believed it would lower gas prices. And that’s without a real coordinated effort to get the facts out about how painfully little coastal drilling would affect prices.
2. Also in that CNN poll, when voters are asked which presidential candidate would do a better job on gas prices, coastal drilling opponent Barack Obama beats coastal drilling supporter John McCain, 51% to 40%. Obama has emphasized the need to invest in clean energy and use less oil, and that forward-thinking approach appears to resonate more than the drill, drill, drill mantra.
3. The headlines in California today talk up a Public Policy Institute of California poll showing support for coastal drilling rising from 41% to 51%.
But PPIC’s own analysis says: “California adults narrowly support allowing more oil drilling off the California coast and narrowly oppose building more nuclear power plants, with deeply divided opinions across party lines. By comparison, there is solid support and consensus for increasing fuel efficiency of automobiles and increasing federal funding for research on alternative energy sources.” (Emphasis added)
4. All of the above is in sync with last week’s poll from the Wilderness Society, which found:
– Only 34% “strongly” support coastal drilling, with another 19% merely supporting it “somewhat.”
– 54% don’t believe coastal drilling will lower gas prices (slightly more than in the CNN poll), a number that rises to 64% when respondents are reminded that “we have already opened up most of our public lands to oil drilling and gas prices have not gone down.”
– 63% believe coastal drilling “is more likely to enrich oil companies than to lower gas prices for American consumers.”
– A whopping 76% believe “Investing in new energy technology including renewable fuels and more efficient automobiles” is a more important priority than “expanding exploration and drilling for more oil.”
The bottom line is: people don’t desperately want drilling for drilling’s sake. We desperately want affordable energy costs, and an energy policy that works.
People may give a weak nod to coastal drilling after hearing a one-sided argument. But even some of those folks remain skeptical it will work, and support for a clean energy policy — one that will give us real choices besides buying huge amounts of increasingly expensive oil — is far broader and far deeper.