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Political Views Prove a Sharp Divider on Energy Policy

On two controversial issues set to come before Congress after their August recess -- a health-care overhaul and energy policy -- the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll finds public opinion sharply riven by partisan leanings.

On energy, the political climate is far more favorable to the proposals coming from President Obama and the Democrats in Congress. About six in 10 say they back those changes, with a majority saying they approve of the way Obama is handling the issue. By contrast, 45 percent support the health care proposals before Congress, and 46 percent approve of how Obama is handling that issue.

Democrats and a majority of independents polled favor the proposals Obama and congressional Democrats have put forward, and unlike on the health care fight, strong support for changes to energy policy among Democrats (49 percent) outweighs strong opposition among Republicans (30 percent).

Still, Republicans are broadly opposed to the changes working their way through Congress, and more now oppose a cap-and-trade program than did so in June, just before the House passed the Waxman-Markey bill containing such a provision.

Most Republicans express skepticism that the proposed changes will address global warming (about half say they will not) or add jobs in their states (one in five say they will create new jobs), two possible benefits frequently cited by advocates for the changes.

But the biggest drawback for those on the right appears to be cost. Overall, 57 percent say the proposals from Congress and the Obama administration would increase their energy costs. Just 30 percent said that they would support cap-and-trade legislation if it reduced greenhouse gases while increasing electric bills by $25 per month.

Among independents, fewer say proposed changes will increase their energy costs (38 percent); however, support for cap and trade among independents drops sharply as cost increases. While 60 percent support a plan that reduces greenhouse gases and adds $10 to their electrical bills each month, just 38 percent would support it if the monthly increase was $25. Even among Democrats, a majority would oppose cap and trade if it were to result in such an increase in their monthly utility costs.

More breakdowns by party and ideology follow, and for more on the energy findings in the poll, check out this week's Post Politics Program.

Q. Overall, given what you know about them, would you say you support or oppose the proposed changes to U.S. energy policy being developed by Congress and the Obama administration? Do you feel that way strongly or somewhat?

             -- Support ---   --- Oppose ---
             NET   Strongly   NET   Strongly
All          57       29      29       19

Democrat     78       49      11        7
Independent  56       26      32       22
Republican   33        6      51       30

Liberal      76       47      13        7
Moderate     63       30      21       13
Conservative 40       17      49       31

Q. Do you think the proposed changes to U.S. energy policy...

...would add jobs in your state, take away jobs or won't make much of a difference?

              Add   Take away   No difference
All           36       15             42

Democrat      56        6             32
Independent   30       16             48
Republican    20       25             44

Liberal       52        5             36
Moderate      40       12             41
Conservative  23       24             46

...would increase your energy costs, decrease them or won't make much of a difference?

          Increase   Decrease   No difference
All          41         16            36

Democrat     31         23            39
Independent  38         17            39
Republican   57          6            28

Liberal      27         22            44
Moderate     35         19            38
Conservative 55         10            30

...would or would not help address the global warming issue?

                                Global warming isn't   
            Would   Would not      an issue (vol.)
All          52        34                5

Democrat     72        18                *
Independent  49        37                6
Republican   33        48                9

Liberal      72        21                7
Moderate     62        24               11
Conservative 32        50                8

Q. There's a proposed system called "cap and trade." The government would issue permits limiting the amount of greenhouse gases companies can put out. Companies that did not use all their permits could sell them to other companies. The idea is that many companies would find ways to put out less greenhouse gases, because that would be cheaper than buying permits. Would you support or oppose this system?

           Support   Oppose
All          52        43

Democrat     65        28
Independent  51        45
Republican   37        56

Liberal      63        29
Moderate     58        38
Conservative 37        57

Q. (HALF SAMPLE) What if a cap and trade program significantly lowered greenhouse gases but raised your monthly electrical bill by...

...10 dollars a month?

           Support   Oppose
All          58        40

Democrat     68        31
Independent  60        39
Republican   45        52

Liberal      79        21
Moderate     64        35
Conservative 43        55

...25 dollars a month?

           Support   Oppose
All          39        59

Democrat     47        52
Independent  38        61
Republican   30        67

Liberal      50        50
Moderate     47        53
Conservative 28        70

By Jennifer Agiesta  |  August 28, 2009; 3:14 PM ET
Categories:  Crosstabs , Post Polls  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Virginians on Sen. Webb
Next: Seniors' Negative Turn on Health Care Reform


I believe we're on the edge of a marvelous transformation from an old, dried up energy economy based on oil and other naturally limited energy sources to a revitalized, sustainable economic system based on the recognition that we live in an energy-rich universe. Solar, wind, geothermal now, nuclear, fusion and who-knows-what shortly.
We're done with the zero-sum game, the fighting of wars for energy, the enriching of a few at the expense of the many.
This is a time for joyous optimism. Let the "party of no" luddites sell short. They will still benefit in spite of themselves. And they'll love the profits once they get in the game.

Posted by: stosp | August 28, 2009 6:55 PM | Report abuse

Most Democrats oppose nuclear fission power. The Left is even opposed to nuclear fusion, should that become available.

Instead, they're chasing pie in the sky, like wind power.

In America, unlike Europe,70% of our energy needs go to transportation. We're a sprawling, spread-out country, from Maine to Hawaii, from Florida to Alaska. We can't run our cars, trucks and planes on wind power.

Before the debate on health care got started in earnest, most Americans backed health care reform in principle. But once they saw specifics of ObamaCare (or PelosiCare), public opinion turned against it.

The exact same thing is going to happen with cap-and-trade. Once the Democrats' fantastic pursuit of pie-in-the-sky energy sources becomes visible, and Americans understand that cap-and-trade will vastly increase the pump price of gasoline and the price of an airline ticket, public opinion will turn against it as well.

Posted by: sinz52 | August 29, 2009 2:37 PM | Report abuse

First, to set a previous poster straight, transportation in the US accounts for nowhere near 70% of our energy use. It's actually 28%.

That just shows how politically charged this issue is--especially for conservatives, many of whom are spewing invented statistics.

The fact is that we are caught between a need for energy independence and a need to protect the climate. The only solution is to conserve energy and to develop non-carbon sources. That includes nuclear, although it is far too slow and too costly to save our near-term bacon, and safe waste disposal costs MUST be included.

The first step, however, is to get past "nothing will interfere with my God-given right to drive an F-250", and to start pitching in together to solve this mess. We've been ignoring it since Nixon tried to get us together on this matter, for crying out loud! Enough stalling!

Posted by: Seldomseen | August 30, 2009 5:05 PM | Report abuse

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