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Voters Say Yes to Deepwater Drilling, Maybe in the Gulf

Friday, May 15, 2015

Five years ago, the nation was focused on the disastrous BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and now the federal government has given the okay for deepwater drilling to resume nearby. Voters are closely divided on the wisdom of this decision, but most still favor deepwater drilling in general.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 42% of Likely U.S. Voters favor the government’s decision to allow deepwater drilling to resume near the site of the 2010 spill. Nearly as many (38%) are opposed, while 20% are undecided. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

But 53% think, generally speaking, that deepwater oil drilling should be allowed. That’s down slightly from 57% two years after the spill but still higher than the 47% who supported deepwater drilling in July 2010 just after the spill was finally capped. Twenty-eight percent (28%) now oppose deepwater drilling. Nineteen percent (19%) are not sure about it.

Sixty-three percent (63%) of voters believe the cleanup of the 2010 oil spill has been at least somewhat successful, with 17% who say it has been Very Successful. Twenty-six percent (26%) feel the cleanup hasn’t been successful, but that includes only five percent (5%) who say it has been Not At All Successful. Eleven percent (11%) are not sure. These views haven’t changed since 2012.

Voters are a bit more likely than they were three years ago to believe the spill has caused long-term environmental damage. Only 12% say it will have a devastating impact on the environment, but another 31% think it will have a major long-term impact. Just over half (51%) don’t see that disastrous an aftermath, with 27% who rate the long-term environmental impact as modest, 15% who say it will be minor and nine percent (9%) who feel there will be little lasting impact. In 2012, 56% rated the potential impact as modest, minor or little.

By comparison, in June 2010 as the leak continued to gush into the Gulf, 37% predicted devastating long-term impact to the environment, and 36% more expected the spill to have a major impact. 

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The survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted on May 13-14, 2015 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

Just 30% of voters think the United States does enough to develop its own gas and oil resources. But support for offshore oil drilling in general has fallen to 47%, the lowest level of support in seven years. Only 26% oppose such drilling, but 27% are now undecided.

Men believe more strongly than women that the Gulf cleanup has been successful and are less fearful of long-term environmental damage.

The older the voter, the more likely he or she is to consider the cleanup a success and to believe that the long-term damage has been minimal.

Accordingly, men and those 40 and over are much stronger supporters of renewed drilling in the Gulf and deepwater drilling in general than women and younger voters are.

Sixty-six percent (66%) of Republicans favor allowing deepwater drilling to resume near the site of the 2010 spill, compared to 24% of Democrats and 38% of voters not affiliated with either of the major political parties.

Seventy-seven percent (77%) of GOP voters and 50% of unaffiliateds believe deepwater drilling in general should be allowed, but just 35% of Democrats agree.

Among voters who support deepwater oil drilling, 75% think it should be allowed to resume near the site of the 2010 spill. Ninety-three percent (93%) of those who oppose such drilling don’t want it to begin again at the old site.

Most voters still give positive marks to their local environment but think the environment as a whole is getting worse.

Fifty-one percent (51%) of Americans believe major lifestyle cutbacks are necessary in order to save the environment, but only 16% think most Americans would be willing to make major cutbacks in their lifestyles. 

Eighty-eight percent (88%) of voters feel it’s important for the United States to become less dependent on oil imports. Most believe development of domestic shale oil reserves will likely end that dependence on foreign oil.

The majority of voters agree that finding new sources of energy is essential but think renewable sources are a better long-term investment than fossil fuels

Additional information from this survey and a full demographic breakdown are available to Platinum Members only.

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