As Energy Concerns Drop, Americans are Split on the Bush Energy Plan

by Frank Newport

Relatively few Americans paying close attention to issue

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans have become somewhat less concerned about the seriousness of the energy situation over the last two months, and -- although a third now have no opinion on the matter -- the remaining public is closely divided on President Bush's controversial new energy plan. A new Gallup poll also shows that Americans are not currently paying a great deal of attention to the energy plan.

The new poll, conducted June 28-July 1, finds that just 47% of Americans (down from 58% in May) say the energy situation in the United States at this time is "very serious." Another 43% say it is fairly serious, while only 8% say it is not at all serious. In historical perspective, this puts the current perception of energy as a problem at a lower level than at any point previous to this year during the quarter century that Gallup has asked this question. The high point of concern in May came at the apex of media discussion of the California energy situation and the increasing price of gasoline. At that time, as noted, 58% said the energy situation in the United States was very serious. But, before then, the previous high point had been 47% -- the same number as the current poll -- obtained in August of 1979, when there were lines at gas pumps across the country and significant inflation.

Democrats, Liberals and Non-Whites Most Likely to Perceive Energy Situation as Serious

The poll shows that Democrats, liberals and those who do not approve of the way Bush is handling his job as president are more concerned about the seriousness of the energy situation than are others. Additionally, perception of the energy situation as serious is higher among non-whites, those living in the West, and those living in urban areas.

The Bush Energy Plan

Forty-six percent of Americans say they are following news about Bush's energy plan either very or somewhat closely. That puts the issue on the low end of stories Gallup has tracked over the years on this "closely followed" measure. So far this year, for example, the top attention-getting news story, followed closely by 68% of Americans, has been the tragic case in Texas in which a mother, Andrea Yates, confessed to killing her five young children. Other stories this year that have attracted more attention than the Bush energy plan have been Bush's faith based initiative (60% have followed news about it closely), Clinton's last-minute pardons (62% followed closely) and the Ford Firestone controversy (65%).

Thirty-eight percent of Americans say they favor Bush's plan, while 34% say they oppose it, with another 30% saying that they have no opinion. This overall "don't know" response is higher than it was two months ago, when 44% said they supported the plan, 42% opposed it, and only 14% expressed no opinion.

Overall, however, paying attention to the issue has little basic relationship to how one stands on the plan. Those who are paying close attention favor it by a 48% to 43% margin, while those who are not paying attention favor it by a 30% to 23% margin. In other words, those who claim to be following the plan are more likely to have an opinion, but the nature of those opinions -- roughly split down the middle -- is no different from the opinion of those not paying a lot of attention.

Republicans favor Bush's energy plan by a fairly hefty margin, as we would expect -- 61% to 13%. Democrats oppose it by a 50% to 24% margin. Independents are the least certain about where they stand, with those who do have an opinion essentially splitting evenly, 29% in favor and 33% opposed.

Reasons for Opposition

Gallup asked those respondents who said they disagreed with Bush's energy plan, "What is the main reason why you oppose Bush's plan to deal with the country's energy problems?"

The answers given by the 332 people interviewed who opposed the plan were coded into categories, with the following summarized results:

What is the main reason why you oppose Bush's plan to deal with the country's current energy problems? [Open-ended]

BASED ON -- 332 -- WHO OPPOSE BUSH'S ENERGY PLAN; ±6 PCT. PTS.

 

 

2001 Jun 28-Jul 1

   
 

%

Not environmentally friendly/oppose drilling in Alaska

20

Would only benefit the oil companies

13

Disagree with all of Bush's policies

11

Plans don't go far enough/too limited

8

No solution is being offered/nothing is being done

7

Too much emphasis on drilling, not enough on conservation

6

Not enough emphasis on finding alternate energy sources

6

Bush doesn't know enough about the problem

3

Nothing is being done to lower prices

3

Don't believe there really is an energy problem

3

California's energy problems aren't being addressed

2

Need to have more regulation of the energy industry

2

   

No one

1

Other

6

No opinion

9



As can be seen, these reasons can be grouped into four major categories:

  • Opposition based on the perception that the plan is not environmentally friendly (20%)
  • Opposition based on perceived inadequacies of the plan/would not have the desired effect (15%)
  • Opposition based on the perception that the plan benefits big energy companies too much (15%)
  • Opposition based on the perception that the plan does not emphasize conservation or alternative energy sources enough (12%)

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,014 adults, 18 years and older, conducted June 28-July 1, 2000. 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.

How serious would you say the energy situation is in the United States--very serious, fairly serious, or not at all serious?

 

 

Very
serious

Fairly
serious

Not at all
serious

No
opinion

         
 

%

%

%

%

2001 Jun 28-Jul 1

47

43

8

2

         

2001 May 7-9

58

36

4

2

2001 Mar 5-7

31

59

9

1

1991 Feb 7-10

40

44

14

2

1990 Sep 27-30

32

46

19

3

1990 Sep 10-11

28

48

21

3

1990 Aug 9-12

28

45

23

4

1979 Aug 3-6

47

35

16

3

1979 Jun 1-4

37

36

24

3

1979 Apr 27-May 4

44

36

16

4

1979 Feb 23-26

43

42

13

2

1978 Mar 31-Apr 3

41

39

15

5

1977 Nov 18-21

40

42

14

4

1977 Sep 30-Oct 3

40

40

16

4

1977 Aug 5-8

38

43

13

6

1977 Jun 3-6

40

42

13

5

1977 Apr 29-May 2

44

40

11

5

1977 Apr 1-4

41

39

16

4



How closely have you been following the news about President Bush's energy plan -- very closely, somewhat closely, not too closely, or not at all?

 

 

Very
closely

Somewhat closely

Not too closely


Not at all

No
opinion

           

2001 Jun 28-Jul 1

11%

35

32

22

*



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 Jun 28-Jul 1

38%

32

30

       

2001 May 18-20

44%

42

14



What is the main reason why you oppose Bush's plan to deal with the country's current energy problems?

[Open-ended]

BASED ON -- 332 -- WHO OPPOSE BUSH'S ENERGY PLAN; ±6 PCT. PTS.

 

 

2001 Jun 28-Jul 1

   
 

%

Not environmentally friendly/oppose drilling in Alaska

20

Would only benefit the oil companies

13

Disagree with all of Bush's policies

11

Plans don't go far enough/too limited

8

No solution is being offered/nothing is being done

7

Too much emphasis on drilling, not enough on conservation

6

Not enough emphasis on finding alternate energy sources

6

Bush doesn't know enough about the problem

3

Nothing is being done to lower prices

3

Don't believe there really is an energy problem

3

California's energy problems aren't being addressed

2

Need to have more regulation of the energy industry

2

   

No one

1

Other

6

No opinion

9



*Less than 0.5%

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