Public Divided in Reaction to Bush Energy Plan

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Many feel it does not do enough to conserve or produce energy

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Last week, President Bush unveiled his much anticipated energy plan, and a new CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll provides a first glimpse of public reaction to his proposals. Overall, the public is divided in its view on the Bush energy plan, with 44% of Americans in favor, 42% opposed and 14% not expressing an opinion. The poll, conducted May 18-20, shows that opinion on the plan is sharply partisan, with Republicans favoring it by a 70% to 16% margin and Democrats opposing it by a 60% to 25% margin. Independents show slight opposition to the plan, 45% to 40%.

A majority of Americans -- 65% -- believe the Bush plan will eventually help the country's energy problems, "but only after several years." This is consistent with the administration's position that their plan has a long-term focus and will do little to provide relief in the short-term. Appropriately, only 8% of Americans think the plan will resolve the energy problems immediately. About one in five Americans are clearly critical, saying they do not think Bush's plan will help solve the nation's energy problems at all.

Americans Do Not Think Energy Plan Goes Far Enough

While Bush has hailed his plan as the first comprehensive energy strategy in years, a majority of the public (55%) does not feel he is doing enough to solve the nation's energy problems, while 38% believe he is. One of the criticisms Democratic leaders have levied against the Bush plan is that it places too much emphasis on finding new energy sources and too little on conserving existing energy sources. The public, though, is not convinced the plan does enough in either area. Forty-nine percent of Americans feel that the administration's plan does too little to conserve energy, while 38% think it does the right amount and only 3% say it does too much. Similarly, 43% say the plan does too little to produce more energy, while 42% say it does the right amount and just 5% say it does too much.

Not surprisingly, 62% of Democrats think the plan does too little to conserve. However, Democrats also think the plan does too little to produce energy, in contrast to what Democratic Congressional leaders have argued. Republicans think the plan does the right amount in both regards. A majority of independents (55%) believe it does too little to conserve but are more divided on whether it does too little or the right amount to produce energy.

Women, Men Divided Over Necessity of Nuclear Power

One of the more controversial elements of Bush's plan is his call for increased reliance on nuclear power. Overall, Americans are divided over this approach. According to the poll, 49% of the public thinks that nuclear power is necessary to help solve the nation's energy problems; nearly the same proportion (46%) thinks that the dangers of using nuclear power are too great, even if it would help alleviate some of the energy problems. This same split on nuclear energy has been consistently evident in previous Gallup polls.

There is a striking gender gap on this issue. A majority of men, 61%, favor increased reliance on nuclear power, as do just 37% of women. In contrast, a majority of women -- 55% -- feel the dangers of using nuclear power are too great.

Additionally, younger Americans are much more concerned about increased reliance on nuclear power than are older Americans. Six in 10 Americans between the ages of 18-29 think the risks are too great, as do only 37% of those age 50 and older. Differences also exist by socioeconomic status as those with more education and greater incomes are much more likely to see nuclear power as necessary than those with less education and lower incomes.

Americans Split Over Whose Interests Bush's Plan Serve

Much has been made of the fact that Bush, Vice President Cheney, and several members of the Cabinet have ties to the energy industry. Indeed, 61% of Americans think energy companies have too much influence in the Bush administration, while 32% do not. (Previous polls have shown that Americans think the Bush administration is too closely tied to "big business" in general.) The concern among some critics is that Bush's energy policies will do more to benefit the energy companies than the American public. However, the public does not overwhelmingly see this as the case. The latest poll finds 43% of Americans feel Bush's plan is designed more to further energy companies' interests while 44% think it furthers the nations' interests. Again, opinion on this matter is strongly related to political affiliation, as 71% of Republicans see the plan as furthering the country's interests, 67% of Democrats see it as furthering energy companies' interests, and independents are evenly split.

Survey Methods

The results below are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,010 adults, 18 years and older, conducted May 18-20, 2001. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is plus or minus 3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

Based on what you have heard or read, do you favor or oppose President Bush's plan to deal with the country's current energy problems?

 

 

Favor

Oppose

No opinion

       

2001 May 18-20

44%

42

14



Overall, do you think President Bush is or is not doing enough to solve the country's energy problems?

 

 

Doing
enough

Not
enough

DOING TOO
MUCH (vol.)

No
opinion

         

2001 May 18-20

38%

55

1

6



Do you think the Bush energy plan -- [ROTATED: will help the country's energy problems immediately, will help the country's energy problems, but only after several years, (or) will not help the country's energy problems at all]?

 

 

Will help immediately

Will help after several years


Will not help

No
opinion

         

2001 May 18-20

8%

65

19

8



Do you think the Bush energy plan would do too much, too little, or about the right amount to conserve energy?

 

 


Too much


Too little

About the
right amount

No
opinion

         

2001 May 18-20

3%

49

38

10



Do you think the Bush energy plan would do too much, too little, or about the right amount to produce more energy?

 

 


Too much


Too little

About the
right amount

No
opinion

         

2001 May 18-20

5%

43

42

10



Q.14/Q.15 COMBINED RESPONSES

 

 

2001 May 18-20

   
 

%

Too much conservation, too much production

1

Too much conservation, right amount production

1

Too much conservation, too little production

2

   

Right amount conservation, too much production

1

Right amount conservation, right amount production

28

Right amount conservation, too little production

7

   

Too little conservation, too much production

3

Too little conservation, right amount production

11

Too little conservation, too little production

33

   

No opinion

13



Do you think energy companies do or do not have too much influence over the Bush administration's energy policies?

BASED ON -- 481 -- NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM A; ±5 PCT. PTS.

 

 

Yes, too much influence

No, not too
much influence

No
opinion

       

2001 May 18-20

61%

32

7



Do you think the Bush energy plan is designed more to -- [ROTATED: further the energy companies' interests, (or) further the country's interests]?

BASED ON -- 529 -- NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM B; ±5 PCT. PTS.

 

 

Energy's
interests

Country's interests

BOTH/MIXED
(vol.)

No
opinion

         

2001 May 18-20

43%

44

5

8



Which comes closer to your view about increasing the number of nuclear power plants in the country -- [ROTATED: nuclear power is necessary to help solve the country's current energy problems, (or) the dangers of nuclear power are too great, even if it would help solve the country's current energy problems]?

 

 

Nuclear power is necessary

Nuclear power is
too dangerous

No
opinion

       

2001 May 18-20

49%

46

5



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