Public Opposes Oil Drilling in ANWR

by David W. Moore

Opponents more intense than supporters

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

Last week the U.S. Senate blocked legislation that would have permitted oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska. While the action undercut President George W. Bush's energy policy, a recent Gallup poll finds a majority of Americans in agreement with the Senate position. According to the poll, conducted Mar. 18-20, Americans are against opening up ANWR for oil drilling -- by a margin of 56% to 35%. Although the question has been worded somewhat differently in previous Gallup polls (as shown below), the results have consistently shown majority opposition to such a proposal.

Do you think the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska should or should not be opened up for oil exploration?

 

Yes, should

No, should not

No opinion

2002 Mar 18-20

35%

56

9



Next I am going to read some specific environmental proposals. For each one, please say whether you generally favor or oppose it. How about: Opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska for oil exploration?

 

Favor

Oppose

No opinion

2002 Mar 4-7

40%

56

4

2001 Nov 8-11 ^

44%

51

5

2001 May 7-9 ^ †

38%

57

5

2001 Mar 5-7 †

40%

56

4

^

Next, here are some things that can be done to deal with the energy situation. For each one, please say whether you generally favor or oppose it. How about -- [RANDOM ORDER]?

WORDING: Opening up the Alaskan Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil exploration.



The poll also shows that supporters of oil drilling are far less intense in their feelings than are opponents. In the Mar. 18-20 survey, respondents who said they supported the proposal were then asked how upset they would be if such a proposal were not adopted. Less than one-third of the supporters said they would be upset if drilling were not allowed. Among opponents of oil drilling, however, more than three in four said they would be upset if drilling were allowed.

 

Do you think the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska should or should not be opened up for oil exploration?*

 

%

%

Yes, should be opened to drilling

36

--

Upset if not opened

--

14

Not upset if not opened

--

22

No, should not be opened to drilling

54

--

Not upset if open to drilling

--

12

Upset if opened to drilling

--

42

No opinion

10

--

*Results are based on half sample who were then asked how upset they would be if their preferences were not granted. The half sample results differ slightly from the whole sample, which shows 35% in favor and 56% opposed to oil drilling. The differences are statistically insignificant.

As shown in the table, if just the intense public opinion is taken into account, opposition is about three to one, 42% who would be upset if drilling were allowed, and 14% who would be upset if drilling were not allowed. Over a third of respondents (34%) expressed a point of view, but then said they would not be upset if their position is not the one that actually prevails. Another 10% of Americans have no opinion to start with, showing that 44% of all Americans do not have a strong viewpoint on the matter.

Republicans Support Oil Drilling; Democrats and Independents Are Opposed

The poll shows that the ANWR issue is highly partisan, with Republicans expressing majority support for oil drilling, while independents and Democrats express much greater majority opposition.

Should Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Be Opened for Oil Drilling?
March 18-20, 2002

Many people who generally approve of the way Bush is handling his job do not also support his proposal to open up ANWR to oil drilling. In fact, a majority of Americans who approve of Bush nevertheless oppose oil drilling in ANWR by a 53% to 38% margin. (This finding is in part due to the fact that Bush's job approval rating is so high that it encompasses a large percentage of the population.) Those who disapprove of Bush's job performance opposed oil drilling by an even larger margin of 72% to 20%.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,009 national adults, aged 18+, conducted Mar. 18-20, 2002. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is +/- 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.

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