Monday, August 11, 2008

Most People are in Favor of Offshore Drilling?

The conventional wisdom, gleaned from polling data, is that most people in the USA desperately want more drilling for oil and they don't much care where we drill for it. But according to David Moore, author of The Opinion Makers and former vice-president of the Gallup Organization, this isn't quite accurate.
A couple of polls addressed the energy issue a bit differently, and they found a more ambivalent public. Pew Research, for example, asked which of two approaches should receive higher priority: "expanding exploration, mining and drilling and the construction of new power plants, OR, more energy conservation and regulation on energy use and prices?" Instead of overwhelming support for more oil drilling, the public was evenly divided between that approach and conservation (47 percent to 45 percent respectively).

An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll offered five different approaches to dealing with the energy problems. Almost half (46 percent) opted for energy conservation and more emphasis on wind and solar, while 40 percent chose offshore oil drilling and drilling in protected areas in Alaska, while 10 percent preferred nuclear power.

And the CNN poll actually measured intensity of opinion, by asking if people "strongly" or "mildly" favored, or "strongly" or "mildly" opposed increased offshore oil drilling. The results found 46 percent "strongly" in favor, with 18 percent "strongly" opposed. More than a third, 35 percent, held only "mild" opinions. (In all discussions of the CNN results, however, there was no mention of the "mild" and "strong" opinions. The two groups were combined according to favor and oppose, which is typical of the way poll results are treated.)
Would you be in favor of offshore drilling for more oil even if it didn't lower gas prices or didn't contribute to energy independence? I'm certain there is a segment of our population that would say go for it. But a large portion would answer in the negative. Polling questions concerning opinions need to be designed correctly to determine how deeply someone holds a certain opinion. Then, the media needs to report the results correctly.

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