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Yale Poll Reveals Overwhelming Public Desire for New Energy Policy Direction

June 9, 2005

New Haven, Conn. – A new Yale University research survey of 1,000 adults nationwide reveals that while Americans are deeply divided on many issues, they overwhelmingly believe that the United States is too dependent on imported oil.

The survey shows a vast majority of the public also wants to see government action to develop new “clean” energy sources, including solar and wind power as well as hydrogen cars.

92% of Americans say that they are worried about dependence on foreign oil

93% of Americans want government to develop new energy technologies and require auto industry to make cars and trucks that get better gas mileage

The results underscore Americans’ deep concerns about the country’s current energy policies, particularly the nation’s dependence on imported oil. Fully 92 percent say this dependence is a serious problem, while 68 percent say it is a “very serious” problem.

Across all regions of the country and every demographic group, there is broad support for a new emphasis on finding alternative energy sources. Building more solar power facilities is considered a “good idea” by 90 percent of the public; 87 percent support expanded wind farms; and 86 percent want increased funding for renewable energy research.

According to Gus Speth, dean of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, “This poll underscores the fact that Americans want not only energy independence but also to find ways to break the linkage between energy use and environmental harm, from local air pollution to global warming.”

Results of the poll indicate that 93 percent of Americans say requiring the auto industry to make cars that get better gas mileage is a good idea. Just 6 percent say it is a bad idea. This sentiment varies little by political leaning, with 96 percent of Democrats and Independents and 86 percent of Republicans supporting the call for more fuel-efficient vehicles.

These findings come on the heels of Congress’ rejection of a proposal to require sport utility vehicles and minivans to become more fuel-efficient and achieve the same gasoline mileage as passenger cars.

“This poll suggests that Washington is out of touch with the American people – Republicans, Democrats and Independents, young and old, men and women-even S.U.V. drivers-embrace investments in new energy technologies, including better gas mileage in vehicles,” said Dan Esty, director of the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy, which commissioned the survey.

The survey also revealed broad support for action to improve air and water quality but growing discomfort with “environmentalists.” Likewise, the public’s confidence in TV news as a source of environmental information has fallen sharply.

This survey is one element of a broader research project at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies focused on environmental attitudes and behavior. Funding for this project, directed by Associate Dean Dan Abbasi, is being provided by the Betsy and Jesse Fink Foundation and Hartford-based United Technologies Corp., which has been ranked as Fortune Magazine’s “Most Admired” aerospace company based on criteria including social responsibility.

The survey was conducted on behalf of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies by Global Strategy Group from May 15 to 22, 2005. The survey was conducted using professional phone interviewers. The nationwide sample was drawn from a random digit dial (RDD) process. Respondents were screened on the basis of age, i.e., to be over the age of 18. The survey has an overall margin of error of ±3.1% at the 95% confidence level. The survey questions and full results can be found at the website http://www.yale.edu/envirocenter for the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy.

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