On future energy needs, MA residents strongly prefer wind, solar and gas over oil, coal and nuclear power

BOSTON — Massachusetts residents strongly believe that the state should rely more heavily on a mix of wind, solar, and natural gas for our future energy needs and a majority think we should lessen our reliance on nuclear power, according to a new poll by The MassINC Polling Group (MPG) released today. The survey also showed that public safety and concern about reliance on foreign sources of oil topped the list of factors driving support for public policy in this area. The renewable energy poll numbers were collected as a part of MPG’s MassPulse Quarterly Omnibus Poll.

The new information provides an added dimension to the recently released climate change survey report entitled “The 80 Percent Challenge: A Survey of Climate Change Opinion and Action in Massachusetts” which polled people’s views on global warming and their practices around energy conservation.  The survey showed, among many factors, strong support for renewable energy, with eight in ten residents willing to pay an extra one dollar, and 60 percent saying they’d pay up to 5 dollars more for renewable energy over traditional sources like oil or coal.  The survey was conducted in February, before the natural disasters in Japan raised questions about the safety of nuclear power. 

“People want to see a change in our energy mix going forward,” said Steve Koczela, President of The MassINC Polling Group.  “These additional numbers add to what we know about people’s support for renewable energy in the state, including where nuclear power sits among the energy choices going forward.”

When asked about future energy needs, large majorities said they would like to see more reliance on solar power (87%), wind power (86%), and natural gas (64%) far higher than levels who want to see more coal (21%), oil (14%) or nuclear power (31%). 

Residents cited safety considerations near power plants (83%), reducing dependence on foreign oil (82%), and pollution concerns (76%) as “very important” considerations when choosing energy sources for electricity.  Residents are less concerned over whether their energy is produced here in Massachusetts, with just 44 percent calling this issue “very important”.

Notably, while the desire for renewable energy spans the ideological spectrum, the motivations are different. Republicans, for example, placed reducing reliance of foreign sources of oil at the top of their priority list (87% very important).  Among Democrats, several issues grouped together at the top including reducing pollution (89% very important), reducing dependence on foreign sources of oil (85%), and safety at power plants (83%).  For unenrolled residents, plant safety (84%) and foreign oil (82%) were most important.

The results of both polls will be discussed at an upcoming forum and panel discussion The 80 Percent Challenge: What Massachusetts must do to meet targets and make headway on climate change on May 19th at City Year headquarters.  The forum is based on MassINC’s climate change report, The 80% Challenge – a first of its kind report providing a detailed look at residents’ opinion on global warming, drawn from a statewide survey of 1,311 residents.  The forum will take the survey results to the next level, with a dynamic discussion of what comes next and how to build a culture of climate protection, the next step toward the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2050.

About the poll

These results are based on questions from the MassINC Polling Group statewide omnibus poll of 500 Massachusetts residents, conducted April 27-30, 2011. Live telephone interviews were conducted via both landline and cell phone. Interviews were conducted in both English and Spanish by Eastern Research Services. The margin of sampling error is +/- 4.4 percent with a 95 percent level of confidence. 

About the MassINC Polling Group

The MassINC Polling Group (MPG) is an independent, non-partisan organization providing public opinion research and analysis to public, private, and social sector clients. MPG is a full service opinion polling operation offering strategic consultation, a wide-ranging suite of analytical products, and high-level communication and outreach planning.  For more information visit www.massincpolling.com.

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