The overall benefits of the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline outweigh the risks to the environment for most Americans, including groups that are historically more environmentally conscious, according to a recent United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll.
The overwhelming majority of Americans surveyed—64 percent—agreed that building a pipeline from Canada to the United States would ease America’s dependence on Mideast oil and create jobs, the poll showed. Just 22 percent of respondents agreed with opponents of the controversial pipeline, who fear its environmental impact, and 13 percent were undecided.
Even constituencies that are usually more likely to choose protecting the environment over promoting economic growth are, at this point, supportive of the project. A majority of Democrats, 51 percent, said they support building the pipeline, while just one-third opposed it. Sixty percent of those who live in urban areas said they back building the pipeline. Even 60 percent of respondents ages 18 to 29 support it.
The lack of opposition among subgroups that are typically more environmentally conscious is likely reflective of the weak U.S. economy, combined with an overall lack of awareness about the issue.
The Congressional Connection Poll was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, which surveyed 1,006 adults by landline and cellular phone on Jan. 26-29. It has a margin of error of +/- 3.7 percentage points.
Poll results also show that 69 percent of Americans said they agree with President Obama’s proposal to “significantly expand production of oil and natural gas from onshore and offshore public lands,” compared with just 21 percent who disagree. There was also widespread support for expanded production from public lands, with 63 percent of Democrats, 83 percent of Republicans, and 65 percent of independents agreeing with Obama’s proposal.
The survey also found strong support for many of the proposals Obama made during his State of the Union address last week, but that was largely split along partisan lines.
For example, 65 percent of respondents overall said they support those who earn more than $1 million a year paying at least a 30 percent income-tax rate, but a wide divide on the question exists by party. Nine in 10 Democrats and 65 percent of independents said they support that idea, but only 37 percent of Republicans agreed.
Imposing a fee on large banks “that would be used to help homeowners who have kept up with their payments to refinance their mortgages at lower interest rates” earned significantly more support from Democrats (90 percent) than from Republicans, although a slim majority (52 percent) did agree with the idea.
Meanwhile, 70 percent of Democrats surveyed backed reducing federal aid to colleges and universities “that raise tuition rates too fast or don’t succeed in graduating enough of their students,” a policy Obama unveiled last week in a speech at the University of Michigan. But support fell to 48 percent among Republicans and 57 percent among independents.
Support for Obama’s tuition-affordability push was strongest among younger Americans: 61 percent of those ages 18 to 29 favored it, while only 51 percent of those 65 and older did.
Most respondents were pessimistic that Obama and Congress would “agree on the major ideas” the president presented last week, but that feeling was particularly pronounced among Republicans and independents. Forty percent of Democrats said they think it is either “very likely” or “somewhat likely” that Congress and the president will agree on these ideas, compared with just 14 percent of Republicans and 20 percent of independents.
Younger Americans were slightly more likely to be optimistic about consensus, with 31 percent of those under age 30 saying it is “very likely” or “somewhat likely.” Among seniors, just 24 percent said it is likely, and 73 percent deemed it “not too likely” or “not at all likely.”
Only 21 percent of whites thought it likely the president and Congress would agree, compared with 39 percent of nonwhites—which includes 53 percent of non-Hispanic blacks, who still support the president overwhelmingly.
This article appears in the Feb. 1, 2012, edition of National Journal Daily.