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Most Americans Support Reducing Fossil Fuel Use

Most Americans Support Reducing Fossil Fuel Use

Story Highlights

  • Many Americans still want to maintain oil, natural gas and nuclear production
  • 80% of Democrats, 37% of Republicans support fossil fuel reduction
  • Mixed views on environmental laws' economic impact

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- While the future of the Green New Deal proposed in Congress is uncertain, most Americans support the general idea of dramatically reducing the country's use of fossil fuels over the next two decades as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address climate change. Six in 10 U.S. adults say they would "strongly favor" (27%) or "favor" (33%) policies with this energy goal, while fewer than four in 10 say they would "oppose" (19%) or "strongly oppose" (17%) them.

U.S. Adults' Support for Proposals to Reduce Use of Fossil Fuels
Finally, we'd like to ask you about proposals to dramatically reduce the use of fossil fuels such as gas, oil and coal in the U.S. within the next 10 or 20 years, in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Would you strongly favor, favor, oppose or strongly oppose establishing policies aimed at achieving this?
Total "Favor" Total "Oppose"
% %
National adults 60 36
Republicans 37 58
Independents 60 35
Democrats 80 19
Gallup, March 1-10, 2019

Support for rapidly slashing the country's use of fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal is significantly higher among Democrats (80%) and independents (60%) than among Republicans (37%).

These data are from Gallup's annual Environment poll, conducted March 1-10.

Asked about the likelihood of dramatically reducing fossil fuel usage in the next 10 to 20 years, six in 10 Americans say it is "very likely" (22%) or "likely" (38%) to happen, roughly matching the percentage favoring proposals that have this goal in mind.

U.S. Adults' Views on Whether the U.S. Can Realistically Reduce Fossil Fuel Use
How likely do you think it is that the U.S. could dramatically reduce the use of fossil fuels within the next 10 or 20 years -- very likely, likely, unlikely or very unlikely?
2019 Mar 1-10
Very likely 22
Likely 38
Unlikely 25
Very unlikely 14
No opinion 1
Total likely 60
Total unlikely 39

Americans Firmly Support More Emphasis on Green Energy Sources

A separate question in the same poll reveals a bit more nuance to these views. Despite general support for policies to reduce fossil fuel use, Americans are mixed in their views on whether the U.S. should put more emphasis or less emphasis on the production of each of six energy resources.

The vast majority of Americans want to see more emphasis placed on the production of green energy sources -- specifically solar power (80%) and wind (70%).

At the same time, they have mixed views about future production of fossil fuels. Relatively few want increased emphasis on oil (28%) or coal (22%); but about one in four think the emphasis on these should remain the same as it is now. Americans are most likely to want less emphasis on coal (50%), followed by oil (43%) and nuclear power (35%).

Americans' Preferences for U.S. Emphasis on Various Energy Sources
Do you think that as a country, the United States should put more emphasis, less emphasis or about the same emphasis as it does now on producing domestic energy from each of the following sources -- [RANDOM ORDER]?
More emphasis Less emphasis Same emphasis
% % %
Solar power 80 7 12
Wind 70 11 18
Natural gas 46 19 33
Nuclear power 32 35 31
Oil 28 43 29
Coal 22 50 25
Gallup, March 1-10, 2019

Support for greater emphasis on solar and wind energy has been stable since 2013, but support for more oil, natural gas and coal has fallen in that time.

Almost two in three Americans wanted greater emphasis on natural gas production in 2013, but that figure has dropped by 19 percentage points in the years since. Support for greater oil production has fallen by a similar amount, while the appeal of more coal production has also dropped.

Line graph. Support among Americans for more emphasis on coal, oil and natural gas.

Mixed Sentiments on Environment Laws' Economic Impact

While Americans support efforts to reduce fossil fuel usage, they are mixed in their views on how environmental and energy laws designed to reduce global warming will affect the U.S. economy. By 41% to 37%, slightly more believe such laws will definitely or probably hurt the economy rather than help it. Just 19% say such environmental and energy laws will have no economic effect.

Current views on this are more positive about the impact of environmental protection on the economy than they were in 2010, when Gallup last asked the question amid debate over a major climate and energy bill, which died in the Senate later that year. However, today's views are similar to views in 2009.

Americans' Views of How Environmental Laws to Reduce Global Warming Will Impact the Economy
Do you believe that new environmental and energy laws designed to reduce global warming will -- [ROTATED: definitely hurt the economy, probably hurt the economy, have no effect either way on the economy, probably help the economy (or) definitely help the economy]?
Definitely/Probably hurt No effect Definitely/Probably help
% % %
2019 Mar 1-10 41 19 37
2010 Mar 4-7 49 18 30
2009 Dec 11-13 42 17 36

Bottom Line

Most Americans' perceptions that a reduction in use of fossil fuels is feasible could be what's driving the hope and ambition of Green New Deal backers who want to address the climate change issue. But even industry leaders in solar and wind energy, who stand to gain the most out of such legislation, say a full shift to renewable energy is unrealistic.

Americans are keen to put more emphasis on these renewable sources. But while they are largely open to more wind and solar energy, about half or more of the population wants to maintain or increase production of oil, nuclear energy and especially natural gas -- the last has been a boon to many state economies in recent years despite the concerns of anti-fracking advocates. Coal has the least appeal, with half of Americans saying they want less emphasis on coal production. These views bear monitoring, however, as support for maintained or increased production of fossil fuels has been sliding.

Senators are unlikely to pass the Green New Deal in an upcoming vote on the legislation. But given that most Americans are open to legislation that has a goal of reducing global warming, the bill's sponsors have reason to continue to search for a solution that's more politically viable.

View complete question responses and trends.

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

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