January 27, 2014

Energy: Key Data Points

Dealing with the nation’s energy problem ranked in the bottom half of 20 issues cited by Americans as a top priority for 2014.


The share of Americans citing energy issues as a top priority was unchanged from last year at 45%, down from a high of 60% in 2009, according to a survey conducted Jan. 15-19. Partisan differences about the importance of the issue were small.

The recent energy boom in the U.S. has not registered widely with the public.

Our September 2013 survey found that only 48% correctly say that U.S. energy production is up in recent years. But there is no indication that awareness of the nation’s growing energy production is related to energy policy attitudes.

Two-thirds or more of Americans favor government policies to require better fuel efficiency more funding for alternative energy research and more spending on mass transit. A smaller majority supports more offshore oil and gas drilling.


By nearly three-to-one (73% to 25%), the public supports requiring better vehicle fuel efficiency, according our September 2013 survey. An identical percentage (73%) favors federal funding for alternative energy research, while two-thirds (67%) back more spending on mass transit. A majority (58%) also favors more offshore oil and gas drilling. That is lower than last year, when 65% supported more offshore oil and gas drilling.

Our September 2013 survey showed broad public support for another energy initiative — building the Keystone XL pipeline to transport oil from Canada’s oil sands region through the Midwest to refineries in Texas.

KDP_KeystoneSupport for the Keystone XL pipeline has remained fairly stable during the past six months (65% today, 66% in March), though opposition has risen from 23% to 30%.

Between March and September 2013, opposition to increased fracking has grown significantly across most regions and demographic groups.


Overall, 44% now favor increased use of fracking while 49% are opposed. In March, support exceeded opposition by 10 points (48% to 38%), according to our September 2013 survey. Independents and Republicans are more likely to oppose fracking now than in March (by 13 points and 12 points, respectively). Democrats’ views have shown less change, but a majority of Democrats continue to oppose increased use of the drilling method (59%).

Increased use of nuclear power lost support last year.

Currently, 38% favor the increased use of nuclear power while 58% are opposed, according to our September survey. In March 2012, opinion was more closely divided (44% favor, 49% oppose). As recently as February 2010, significantly more favored (52%) than opposed (41%) the increased use of nuclear power.

There was a sharp partisan divide over energy policies in our September 2013 survey.

One of the largest gaps between the parties is on the question of offshore drilling, according to our September 2013 survey. Nearly eight in-ten Republicans (79%) – and 90% of Republicans and Republican leaners who agree with the Tea Party – support allowing more offshore oil and gas drilling, compared with 44% of Democrats. Democrats are far more supportive than Republicans of stricter emission limits on power plants to address climate change; 74% of Democrats favor this compared with 67% of independents and 52% of Republicans.

Index to other Key Data Point fact sheets