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Divided On Drilling

Most Americans say their utility bills have gone up this winter, but the public opposes drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to relieve the nation's energy woes, a new CBS News poll finds.

Eight out of ten Americans report seeing their energy bills go up so far this winter, with 61 percent saying their utility bills have gone up a lot and another 21 percent saying their bills have gone up a little.

Sixteen percent say their utility bills have stayed about the same this winter, and only 1 percent of respondents have seen their bills go down.

The rise in bills differs by region, with Western residents reporting the widest-spread increases.

The nation's West has suffered the brunt of this winter's energy crunch, with California — and its troubled deregulation scheme — at the epicenter. Residents of the Golden State have faced the threat of rolling blackouts for more than three weeks.

CBSNEWS - New York Times Polls
Energy bills this winter

 Gone up a lotGone up a littleStayed the sameGone down






Nationwide, the public blames both the government of California and the electric companies for that state's problems, but places more blame on the government. Forty-two percent of those surveyed blame the state and 32 percent the electric companies, while 10 percent pin the problem on consumers.

Opinion is split on whether the federal government should intervene in California's energy situation, with 46 percent saying the federal government should help, and 48 percent believing the feds should stay out of it. Democrats favored intervention by a margin of 57 percent to 39 percent. Only a third of Republicans supported federal involvement.

Despite the California crisis and rising bills elsewhere, environmental concerns take precedence over energy production in the public mind. Americans now say protecting the environment is more important than producing energy by 52 percent to 32 percent — even among those who say their utility bills have gone up a lot this winter tend to support protecting the environment.

Which is more important?

  Now July 1979
Producing energy32%41%

Protecting the environment52%43%

During the energy crisis twenty years ago, Americans were evenly split over which one should be the priority.

Consequently, half of Americans disapprove of President Bush's proposed plan of opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska for oil and natural gas drilling, while 42 percent approve of the proposal. Republicans tend to support the idea, by a margin of 61 percent to 31 percent, while Democrats oppose it by a count of 58 percent to 35 percent. Most men and women oppose the plan, but men are more likely to support it than women.

This poll was conducted by telephone February 10-12, 2001, among 1,124 adults nationwide. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus three percentage points for results based on the entire sample. Sampling error for subgroups may be higher.size>

For detailed information on how CBS News conducts public opinion surveys, click here.

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