First poll shows plurality opposed to increased offshore drilling--it won't be the last

by: Chris Bowers

Wed May 26, 2010 at 09:24

As the BP spill disaster continues to unfold in the Gulf of Mexico, support for offshore drilling continues to drop.  While polling immediately after the spill still showed majority support for increased offshore drilling, that support was not solid and has not found its floor:

CBS News Poll. May 20-24, 2010. N=1,054 adults nationwide. MoE ± 3.

"Would you favor allowing increased drilling for oil and natural gas off the U.S. coast, or do you think the costs and risks are too great?"

Date Favor Risks too great Unsure
May 24, 2010 45 46 9
May 09, 2010 46 41 13
Aug 18, 2008 62 28 10

This is the first poll in the archives of polling report to show plurality opposition to increased offshore drilling. While other polling still sows majority support for increased offshore drilling, there are two factors to keep in mind:

  1. Support continues to drop as the spill unfolds.  Polling from both CBS and Fox (you can see both in the polling report archives here) shows support for offshore drilling lower now than it was at the start of May.

  2. Much of the continued support for increased offshore drilling is soft.  A CNN poll conducted from May 21-May 23 shows a majority in favor of increased drilling, 57%--41%.  However, strong support barely edged out strong opposition, 27%-25%.  Almost the entire advantage for increased drilling came from "mild" supporters, who outnumbered mild opponents 30%-16%.  Those mild supporters are movable, and the likely source of the continued drop in overall support for increased drilling.  As the size of the disaster continues to reveal itself, they will likely continue to fall off the rolls of supporters.
In short, while this CBS poll is the first to show a plurality opposed to drilling, it will likely not be the last poll to show public opinion closely divided on this matter.  The days of pro-drilling forces holding the edge in public opinion are drawing to a close.

In related news, President Obama will hold a press conference today, with opening remarks on the oil spill.  Also, the Senate is fighting to remove the liability cap on oil companies responsible for spills.  Kate Sheppard and Greg Sargent have a good rundown of the legislation and process involved in that fight.

Chris Bowers :: First poll shows plurality opposed to increased offshore drilling--it won't be the last

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"Drill Baby Drill" leads to "Spill Baby Spill"... (0.00 / 0)
I guess more and more people are coming to realize this. More offshore drilling won't solve any of our energy problems, and it will only worsen the climate crisis. I guess it took the very destruction of The Gulf to get the American people to wake up and smell the sewage. Sad... But at least there's hope we won't be fooled into allowing any more "Drill Baby Drill" any time soon.

Yes, Virginia, there are progressives in Nevada.

A question of patriotism (0.00 / 0)
This massive disaster at least affords people on the left the opportunity to deploy the timeworn, effective tactic of wrapping themselves in the flag, and in a meaningful way at that.

People who support drilling need to be made to account for their position in terms of patriotism.  How can legislators who want to permit multinational corporations access to our resources only to sell them on a global market while destroying the environment and the tourist economy that depends on it can be considered in any way patriotic?

Also, this is a perfect time to point out the necessity for increased government regulation and the real role the government should play in this.  This kind of talk is not going to come from an administration that has let BP handle this in-house, but whoever deploys this kind of rhetoric will have a powerful tool to mobilize public opinion.    

I posted the following in reply to a quick hit, but it fits here (4.00 / 2)
How stupid of the Obama administration to have left the management of this disaster largely in the hands of the people that created it.  It's a neat metaphor for what his particular brand of neoliberal "reform" represents.  

But I would have thought that the administration possessed the political sense to create some form of expert brainstrust that could have at the very least produced some sort of useful information, in contrast to the obvious lies from BP officials.  

Now, whether something could have been done or not, the Democratic party is further implicated in this mess.  I say "further" because of Obama's stupid and wildly unpatriotic caving to multinational fossil fuel interests that destroy our environment only to sell their retrograde products on a global market that subverts our nation's economic well being.      

Nothing good can come from this that doesn't relate to a critique of neoliberalism.  

public opinion (0.00 / 0)
Of course, the less offshore drilling we do, the more we rely on other sources of oil like the Canadian tar sands, which are creating their own mega-disaster in the far north - basically, the surface strip-mining of hundreds of square miles of wilderness - in a process that is going to continue to expand to other parts of the world.

We're in the phase of the oil age in which the stuff is just no longer easy to come by. This will continue to get worse, and these sorts of disasters will continue to happen more and more often. Americans will show they understand this when they are willing to sacrifice their ridiculous, inane auto-centric lifestyle.

I am not expecting this to happen anytime soon.

Why don't we know? (0.00 / 0)
Shockingly, it remains unclear just how much oil is gushing into the Gulf.  Estimates still vary greatly from 5000 barrels a day to potentially over 100,000 a day.  To put that into perspective, 5000 a day would mean that the spill is currently on the level of the Exxon Valdez disaster, while 100,000 a day would mean it is already the worst accidental spill of all time, only exceeded by the intentional spills created during the first Iraq War in the early 1990s.

This spill is very similar in nature to what had been the worst unintentional spill before it, which started in the Gulf Coast in 1979 when a drilling platform experienced what was a similar failure off the coast of Mexico.  For those of us hoping that this week's so call 'top-kill' procedure works, it should be noted that the it did not work in 1979, and that well was only 50m below the ocean's surface.  It should also be noted that it took 10 months to stop the 1979 spill.

It seems important that we have a better estimate to just how much oil is going into the ocean here.  Moving forward it will be important in terms of assessing liability in not just this case, but in future spills as well.  It will also be important in how it effects public opinion, and in determining the effectiveness of current cleanup efforts.  Of course, BP does not want anyone to really know, probably not even themselves, which is why they appear to be hampering efforts to have the full extent of the flow monitored and measured.  But of course we already know that Big Oil is really in charge.


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