Numbers, Facts and Trends Shaping Your World

Support for Alternative Energy and Offshore Drilling


The public continues to favor a wide range of government policies to address the nation’s energy supply. More than three-quarters of the public (78%) favors increasing federal funding for research on wind, solar and

hydrogen technology. A large majority (70%) also favors spending more on subway, rail and bus systems. Both measures are little changed from recent years.

At the same time, the public continues to broadly support expanded offshore oil drilling: 63% say they favor allowing more offshore oil and gas drilling in U.S. waters while 31% are opposed. These opinions also have changed little since 2008.

And by a 52% to 41% margin, Americans favor the government promoting the increased use of nuclear power. In April 2009, the public was more divided about nuclear power (45% favor, 48% oppose), but views are similar to September 2008 (50% favor, 43% oppose). In his State of the Union address last month, President Obama pledged to build new nuclear power plants and raised the possibility of opening up offshore areas for oil and gas development.

The latest national survey conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Feb. 3-9 among 1,383 adults reached on cell phones and landlines, finds that public awareness about a policy to set limits on carbon emissions – known as “cap and trade” – is still quite low. Nearly half of Americans (46%) have heard nothing at all about the legislation being considered by the president and Congress that would set limits on carbon dioxide, down slightly from last October (55%).

Opinions about the policy also are quite stable. A majority (52%) of Americans favor setting limits on carbon dioxide emissions and making companies pay for their emissions, even if it may mean higher energy prices; about a third (35%) oppose the proposal. As was the case in October, those who have heard a lot about the legislation are more likely to oppose it (54%) than those who have heard a little (27%) or nothing at all (36%).

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