Power brokers in Washington, D.C., are so badly out of touch with mainstream voter sentiment that they may find themselves out of office in 2012, if they continue to bash wind and solar energy and to boost coal, gas, and nuclear power.
Those are the findings of a survey of 1,049 Americans conducted in late October by the Princeton, New Jersey-based research firm ORC International for the nonpartisan, nonprofit Civil Society Institute (CSI), with headquarters in Newton, Massachusetts.
Lobbyists are the problem, according to most U.S. voters. More than seven in 10 Americans (72 percent) – including 62 percent of Republicans, 74 percent of Independents, 83 percent of Democrats, and over half of Tea Party supporters (54 percent) – think that “America's oil, coal and natural gas companies have a disproportionate influence on Congress and the White House when it comes to making national energy policy.”
The research found that a relatively small minority of voters in each party –20 percent of Republicans, 9 percent of Independents, 10 percent of Democrats, and 24 percent of Tea Party supporters – would be in favor of concentrating federal energy subsidies on the coal, nuclear power , and natural gas industries.
Specifically, nuclear reactor loan guarantees are spurned by Americans on a bipartisan basis. More than two out of three Americans (67 percent) – including 65 percent of Republicans, 66 percent of Independents, 68 percent of Democrats, and 62 percent of Tea Party backers – disagree that they should provide “taxpayer-backed loan guarantees for the construction of new nuclear power reactors in the United States through proposed tens of billions in federal loan guarantees for new reactors.”
Conversely, when it comes to focusing federal subsidies on wind and solar, 38 percent of all Americans respond favorably. In fact, more than three out of four Americans (77 percent – including 65 percent of Republicans, 75 percent of Independents, 88 percent of Democrats, and 56 percent of Tea Party members – agree with the following statement: “The U.S. needs to be a clean energy technology leader and it should invest in the research and domestic manufacturing of wind, solar and energy efficiency technologies.”
About seven in 10 Americans (71 percent) – including 55 percent of Republicans, 72 percent of Independents, 84 percent of Democrats, and almost half (47 percent) of Tea Party backers – strongly or somewhat support “a shift of federal loan-guarantee support for energy away from nuclear reactors and toward clean renewable energy such as wind and solar.”
And only about one in 10 Americans (13 percent) – including just 26 percent of Tea Party supporters –believes that “no energy source should receive federal subsidies.” Pam Solo, founder and president, Civil Society Institute, said, “Americans of all political stripes have moved ahead of Washington and want our nation to make smarter choices about cleaner and safer sources of power. Common sense is the driving force in American opinion, which focuses not on whether Washington should help usher in a renewable, clean energy future, but how it should proceed in doing so.”
Graham Hueber, senior researcher, ORC International, said, “One clear message of this survey is that there is no clear 'Old Fuel Constituency' in the sense of a large number of unified Americans who favor fossil fuels and nuclear power over wind and solar power. In fact, Republicans and Tea Party supporters who might seem like the most logical … a constituency are somewhat more likely than others to support federal subsidies for fossil fuels and nuclear power, but they also would prefer development of cleaner sources of energy. These are actually quite striking findings in the context of the 2012 election campaign.”
Finally, few Americans – only about one in four (27 percent) want Washington to adopt a laissez-faire approach to energy issues. And Americans do not see more clean energy as a roadblock to economic recovery. More than two-thirds of Americans (69 percent) think it would be a “bad idea” for the United States “to 'put on hold' progress toward cleaner energy sources during the current economic difficulty.”
Cheryl Kaften is an accomplished communicator who has written for consumer and corporate audiences. She has worked extensively for MasterCard (News - Alert) Worldwide, Philip Morris USA (Altria), and KPMG, and has consulted for Estee Lauder and the Philadelphia Inquirer Newspapers. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.
Edited by Jennifer Russell