The latest Gallup energy poll shows most Americans favor solar and other renewable energy sources. This is in spite of the current natural gas boom from fracking.
Responding to this question, “Do you think that as a country, the United States should put more emphasis, less emphasis, or about the same emphasis as it does now on producing domestic energy from each of the following sources,” 76% told the Gallup pollsters that the US should put more emphasis on solar energy than it does now. Wind was just behind in second place at 71% with natural gas (65%) and oil (46%) following in third and fourth position. Nuclear and coal were least favored at 37% and 31% respectively.
Polling data must be taken with a certain amount of skepticism. Results are always skewed by the number of people who may have an opinion but simply hang up when a pollster calls. Gallup doesn’t give us information about that. But the data does tell us some interesting things about the differences in opinion between people who identify themselves by political party or where they live in the country.
That data shows 68% of Republicans support more solar development (Democratic support is at 86%), which could become important as soon as the next presidential election campaign kicks into gear. At present, the Republican leadership in Congress has shown little interest in promoting anything except coal power and more fracking, but the polling data suggests their position may not have much support among Republican voters.
Looking at the data broken down by region also reveals some interesting information. Support for solar energy is strong all across the United States, a fact to keep in mind as the 2016 presidential election cycle begins. Important federal tax credits are set to expire at the end of December, 2016 — just weeks after the next election. If not renewed, development of renewable energy in this country will suffer a serious set back.
Also, many state legislatures are wrestling with how to balance the interests of solar advocates and the needs of existing utility companies, many of which are openly hostile to solar power. A report in the Brandenton Herald on April 4 tells the story of a state legislator and solar advocate who became a pariah in Florida political circles, thanks to millions in campaign donations from the state’s four main utility companies.
Poll data is only one part of the conversation, of course. It takes more to be fully informed on any issue than simply reading polls. But this old political adage is still relevant: “If the people will lead, their leaders will follow.”