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Public Opinion on Energy Policy, 1974-2006 (WP-07-07)

Fay Lomax Cook and Toby Bolsen

In recent years, energy policy has become an increasingly salient political issue in the United States.   Rising gas prices, coupled with regional energy shortages and a growing recognition of the connection between U.S. energy supplies and national security, have led to calls for legislative action. Part of developing a national energy policy lies in understanding public opinion about existing energy sources, public support for various energy strategies, and what the public might be willing to do in order to conserve energy and reduce U.S. reliance on foreign oil. In this review, we report trends in public opinion from 1974 through 2006 on traditional energy sources, alternative energy sources, and citizens' priorities on energy alternatives. The polls show that concern about the U.S. energy situation is as high now as it was during the nation's energy crises of the 1970s.   While attitudes about traditional sources of energy are strongly influenced by current economic conditions, citizens are increasingly receptive to alternative sources of energy (e.g., nuclear energy). Citizens also support policy changes that involve the government encouraging conservation through energy efficient appliances, vehicles, and homes and offices.   The public voices a growing frustration with President Bush's, and the Congress's, handling of the nation's energy problems, and they express a desire for leadership in finding long-term solutions to the nation's energy dilemmas.

Fay Lomax Cook, Professor of Human Development and Social Policy; Director and Faculty Fellow, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University

Toby Bolsen, Doctoral Student, Department of Political Science, Northwestern University

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