Today the Conservative Energy Network CEN) released polling data that gauged voters’ attitudes toward issues of the economy, energy, and the environment. This data is timely and important for candidates in midterm and local elections especially as Americans face concerns over increasing inflation, rising energy prices, and global economic uncertainty.
When asked about what issues are most important to them on a scale of 1 to 10, voters overwhelmingly stated that issues of rising prices (8.4), jobs and the economy (8.7), healthcare (8.5), and social security (8.3) were the most important to them and most impacted their votes.
In terms of energy production, voters across the political spectrum stated that we need to further emphasize producing energy from solar, wind, and hydropower. Coal, natural gas, and nuclear however had different levels of support along party lines. Overall, 37% of Americans believe that we should further emphasize nuclear energy production, which is up from 33% last year. Republicans specifically favor more nuclear power at a rate of 47%. Meanwhile, 47% of Independents want less nuclear production. This data shows that while its public image is slightly improving, proponents of nuclear power still need to tout its many benefits including safety, reliability, and ability to produce carbon-free power.
Additionally natural gas enjoyed high support from voters, with 48% of all voters saying the United States should emphasize more domestic production of natural gas. The energy source did not see as stark of a contrast along party lines with 61% of Republicans and 43% of Independents in favor of more domestic production. Importantly, there was no energy source that Republican voters did not favor, implying that an “all of the above” energy strategy resonates well with GOP voters.
Thus far the Biden administration has embraced an “everything but” approach to energy and climate change that demonizes fossil fuels. Polling suggests however that voters do not agree with this view, and for good reason. American natural gas is cleaner than that of Russia or Saudi Arabia. Additionally, the shift from coal to natural gas as a result of the fracking revolution has led to America having the largest absolute decline in total emissions since 2005, according to the International Energy Agency.
Given the high cost of energy, voter attitudes, and the low environmental footprint of natural gas the Biden administration would do well to embrace domestic energy production of all energy sources free of subsidies and preferential treatment. The reality is climate change is not a top priority for most Americans relative to other issues. Climate change ranked as a bottom-tier voting issue, according to CEN’s data. This is unsurprising especially since some polling has shown that, when compared to other issues, climate change is of lower importance. Importantly, some studies have also shown that 1/3 of voters are unwilling to spend $1 a day to fight climate change.
The relative lack of interest in climate change does not mean policymakers should ignore clean energy solutions rooted in economic freedom and limited government. CEN’s polling data also showed that a majority (84%) of Americans favor the government taking action to accelerate clean energy in the United States. While progressives may tout this number as a reason to extend subsidies for mature technologies and have the government pick energy winners and losers, some nuance needs to be applied. While 84% of voters favor more government action, only 20% are in favor of subsidies, mandates, or quotas and only 15% favor a carbon tax or price on carbon. Instead, 65% of Americans favor approaches that increase market competition and allow the private sector to thrive. The more effective role for the government to take is to remove barriers to energy innovation and deployment.