By Richard Kujawski, Managing Editor
The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research has made available a major survey of the attitudes of Americans about key energy issues in the United States, and how they understand, learn about, and act on energy issues.
“From the price of gas at the pump to action by the federal government on energy policy, energy is an issue that touches the lives of every American every day, said Trevor Tompson, director of the AP-NORC Center. “This survey represents an in-depth and up-to-the-minute look at how the American public feels about where responsibility for the nation’s energy problems lies, and who holds responsibility for addressing them.”
Some key findings are described below, and show the political divide in people’s opinions about energy.
The U.S. public accepts some responsibility for the country’s energy problems, but most place responsibility with the energy industry and want the government involved in finding a solution.
Survey respondents spread the blame, with 62% blaming the energy industry for not making energy-saving products and services more affordable. Regarding the role of government, 62 percent think the government should be extremely or very involved in finding solutions to this country’s energy problems. Democrats favored government by 79%, compared to only 42% of Republicans.
Interestingly, 64% of respondents cited (other) people’s unwillingness to save energy as a major reason for U.S. energy problems. But when asked about their personal role, only 41 percent said that the actions of individuals like themselves can make a real difference. More Democrats (46%) felt that individuals could make a difference than Republicans (33%).
The public lacks knowledge of major energy savings programs, and lacks trust in the information.
Americans trust their local utilities for accurate information (52%) and consumer groups (48%). Only 35% reported being completely or very much trusting their government sources, whether local, state, or federal—although more Democrats than Republicans expressed trust.
Regarding federal government programs, knowledge was higher for people with a college education, over 50 years old, and more affluent. Still:
- Less than half the respondents reported knowing much about the plan to phase out incandescent light bulbs.
- One-third of those polled know much about Energy Star and the labels on appliances.
- Only a quarter of the public knows a lot or a great deal about the fuel efficiency standards for cars.
People believe they are taking actions to save energy, and money is an issue in changing behavior.
An overwhelming 89 percent reported doing something to save energy in the past year, primarily the day-to-day activities of turning off lights, adjusting the thermostat, and driving less. And 91 percent of the people think they use less energy than others in their community, or at least no more than the average.
The cost of taking action for long-term energy savings usually requires spending money up front. Two-thirds of respondents said the cost of buying energy-saving products was a major problem for them—although 77% believe that spending the money would save enough energy to pay back their investment.
National energy policy opinions sharply divide along party lines.
Which is more important—producing more or using less energy, relying on fossil fuels or renewable energy? The major reasons for energy problems depend on whom you ask.
For Republicans (65%) the biggest problem is that the U.S. is not producing enough energy, while Democrats (51%) think the biggest issue is energy waste.
While a majority (58%) favor policies that allow for more drilling of oil and gas wells, Republicans favor drilling over Democrats by a 78-to-47 percent margin. On the flip side, 75% of Republicans cite government limits of drilling as a major reason for America’s energy problems, compared to only 34% of Democrats.
Democrats favor policies to encourage the energy industry to invest in clean and renewable energy sources by 74% to 43% for Republicans.
The 8-page report is available at http://www.apnorc.org/Common/pdfs/AP-NORC-Energy-Report.pdf
Survey details are available at http://www.apnorc.org/Common/pdfs/AP-NORC-Energy-Topline.pdf
article via Living Green Magazine; livinggreenmag.com
photo via Stephanie Aho; uchicago.edu