March 12, 2013

Public Puts Priority on Developing Alternative Energy Sources

54%

More than half of Americans say the priority for addressing U.S. energy needs should be put on developing alternatives to production of oil, coal and natural gas.

By a 54% to 34% margin, more Americans say the priority for addressing the nation’s energy supply should be developing alternative energy sources, such as wind, solar and hydrogen, over increased production of oil, coal and natural gas. Since 2011, the public has prioritized alternative sources over expanding production.

Last October, the gap had narrowed: 47% said the priority should be developing alternative sources while 39% said the focus should be on expanding oil, coal and natural gas. Still, while support for energy alternatives rebounded since then, it is below the 63% who favored that approach in 2011.

Democrats and Republicans are divided over these energy policy priorities. About two-thirds (64%) of Democrats put the emphasis on developing alternative forms of energy compared to 33% of Republicans. Conversely, 54% of Republicans favor expanding exploration and production of oil, coal and natural gas compared to 28% of Democrats.

But beyond partisan differences, there are stark age differences over energy policy priorities. Fully 71% of those younger than 30 give greater priority to developing alternative sources, while just 24% prioritize increased production of oil, coal and gas.

Opinion among older age groups is more divided. Just 39% of those 65 and older prioritize developing alternative sources while 44% say expanding production of oil, coal and gas should be the priority. Age differences are more modest in views of stricter emission limits on power plants to address climate change. Majorities across all age groups, including 70% of those under 30, favor this proposal. Read more