Poll: Vast Majority say U.S. Energy Policy Needs Major Changes

CBS News Poll analysis by the CBS News Polling Unit: Sarah Dutton, Jennifer De Pinto, Fred Backus and Anthony Salvanto.


Nine in 10 Americans -- including a majority of Republicans, Democrats and independents alike -- think U.S. energy policy either needs fundamental changes or to be completely rebuilt, a new CBS/ New York Times poll shows.

Just 6 percent think only minor changes are needed to the nation's energy policy, according to the poll, conducted June 16 - June 20.

In the wake of the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, many in Washington are once again discussing ways to wean the nation off of foreign oil and curb greenhouse gas emissions without raising energy costs. The Senate is stalled over the way forward, however, and it's unclear whether Democrats have the votes for the comprehensive plan they have been pushing.

Nearly all Americans think the U.S. is too dependent on other countries for its supply of oil, and nearly nine in 10 are at least somewhat concerned about that, the poll shows, including 56 percent who are very concerned.

Moreover, nearly half of Americans -- 45 percent -- would support an increased tax on gasoline to support the exploration of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power. But most people -- 51 percent -- oppose such a tax.

Although he talked about ending America's dependence on fossil fuels in a primetime address to the nation last week, Americans are divided as to whether President Obama has a clear plan for developing new sources of energy. Forty-one percent think he has a clear plan, while another 45 percent think he does not.

Still, Americans are optimistic that the U.S. will develop an alternative to oil as a major source of energy within the next 25 years. Most (59 percent) think it is at least somewhat likely, including a quarter (24 percent) that thinks it is very likely.

CBSNews.com Special Report: Disaster in the Gulf

In the meantime, Mr. Obama has put in place a six-month moratorium on deepwater offshore drilling in the wake of the oil spill, which started when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded on April 20. According to the poll, two in three Americans think the moratorium was a good idea because new safety regulations for offshore drilling are needed. Just 30 percent thought it was a bad idea because of the loss of income and jobs that could cause.

Similar to last month, 42 percent of Americans favor increasing offshore oil drilling, while more -- 49 percent -- think the costs and risks are too great. Americans divide along partisan lines on this issue.

Unlike Americans overall, those in the Gulf Coast region - who may have felt the effects of the oil spill more directly but whose economies may also be more dependent upon offshore drilling - favor increased offshore drilling (54 percent). Just a third of Gulf Coast residents think the costs and risks are too great.

And in the wake of the spill, there is wide support for increasing regulations on oil companies. When asked to choose between more regulations to protect the environment or fewer regulations to produce more oil, three in four think the government should do more to regulate the offshore drilling practices of oil companies. A majority of Republicans, Democrats and independents agree, as do most residents of the Gulf coast.

More from the poll:

Poll: Most Say Obama Lacks Clear Plans on the Oil Spill, Energy or Jobs
Poll: Most Say Months Before Oil Stops Spewing
Poll: Gulf Coast Residents Angry but Optimistic about Spill
Read the complete poll


This poll was conducted among a random sample of 1,259 adults nationwide, interviewed by telephone June 16-20, 2010. Phone numbers were dialed from random digit dial samples of both standard land-line and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error for subgroups is higher.

An oversample of residents in coastal counties of Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi was conducted for this poll, for a total of 318 interviews. The results were then weighted in proportion to the adult population. The margin of error for the sample of these Gulf Coast residents is six points.

This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

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