41% Favor Government Policies To Discourage Use of Fossil Fuels, 36% Oppose

Americans believe strongly that the United States needs to change its dependency on fossil fuels, but they have mixed feelings about whether government policies should encourage use of alternative energy sources in their place.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 73% of Adults believe it is at least Somewhat Important for the country to change its dependency on fossil fuels like coal, gas and oil in the near future. This includes 42% who say it’s Very Important.

Just 23% say this change is Not Very or Not At All Important.

Forty-one percent (41%) say government policies should be enacted to discourage use of fossil fuels and encourage the use of alternative energy sources instead. But 36% don’t think that’s a good idea. Another 23% are not sure.

Forty-three percent (43%) believe the continuing disastrous oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico is at least somewhat likely to cause the United States to change its dependency on fossil fuels in the near future. Forty-eight percent (48%) say it’s unlikely. These findings includes 17% who say the oil leak is Very Likely to have that kind of effect and 17% who say it’s Not At All Likely to do so.

Still, 29% of Americans think the United States will buy less oil from the Middle East in five years’ time than it does today. Nineteen percent (19%) say America will buy more oil from that region five years from now, while 45% think it will be about the same.

The survey of 1,000 American adults was conducted on June 16-17, 2010 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

Many Americans like the idea of developing clean, environmentally friendly sources of energy, but most aren’t willing to pay for it.

Sixty percent (60%) think offshore oil drilling should be allowed despite the situation in the Gulf. Seventy-six percent (76%) think offshore drilling is at least somewhat important in meeting the energy needs of the United States, with 47% who say it is Very Important.

Women feel more strongly than men that America needs to lessen its dependency on fossil fuels in the near future. Forty-five percent (45%) of women believe government policies should be enacted to encourage the use of alternative energy sources instead, but 49% of men disagree.

While 54% of women think the Gulf Oil leak is likely to cause America to change its dependency on fossil fuels in the near future, 61% of men say that’s unlikely.

Fifty percent (50%) of Democrats favor government policies to discourage use of fossil fuels and encourage alternative energy use instead. A plurality (47%) of Republicans opposes that idea, and adults not affiliated with either party are evenly divided.

Investors are more supportive of government policies with this goal in mind than non-investors are.

Republicans are inclined to think the United States will buy more oil from the Middle East five years from now, while Democrats and unaffiliated adults tend to believe the country will be buying less oil from the region by then.

Sixty-five percent (65%) of voters agree that finding new sources of energy is more important than reducing the amount of energy Americans now consume. But it’s important to note that the question does not specify whether these new sources of energy come from expanded oil drilling or the development of clean energy alternatives.

Sixty-three percent (63%) believe investing in renewable energy resources such as solar and wind is the better long-term financial investment for America than investing in fossil fuels. Forty-four percent (44%), however, believe there is a conflict between economic growth and environmental protection, although 34% disagree.

Forty-eight percent (48%) of Americans say they are likely to buy an alternative-energy car in the next 10 years.

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Rasmussen Reports is an electronic publishing firm specializing in the collection, publication, and distribution of public opinion polling information.

The Rasmussen Reports Election Edge™ Premium Service offers the most comprehensive public opinion coverage available anywhere.

Scott Rasmussen, president of Rasmussen Reports, has been an independent pollster for more than a decade.

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