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Americans Prioritize Energy Over Environment for First Time

Americans are more likely to say the U.S. should prioritize development of energy supplies than to say it should prioritize protecting the environment, the first time more have favored energy production over environmental protection in this question’s 10-year history.

2001-2010 Trend: Higher Priority for Energy Production or Environmental Protection

The March 4-7 Gallup poll was conducted a few weeks before President Obama came out in favor of oil exploration off some sections of the U.S. coast, and shortly after he advocated the expanded use of nuclear power in the United States.

The current data represent a continuing shift in opinion toward energy production. Since 2007, when Americans’ preferences for environmental protection were the greatest (58% to 34%), Americans’ opinions have shown significant movement each year in the direction of prioritizing energy production. This change has been evident among nearly every major demographic subgroup, although self-identified liberals have remained relatively steadfast in saying the environment should be a higher priority.

At the same time, Americans continue to advocate greater energy conservation by consumers (52%) over greater production of oil, gas, and coal supplies (36%) as a means of solving the nation’s energy problems. Americans have always come out in favor of greater consumer conservation, though this year marks the highest percentage favoring production (by a percentage point) in the last 10 years.

2001-2010 Trend: Better Solution to Energy Problems: More Production or More Conservation

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