Survey says voters back offshore drilling

Roughly seven out of 10 voters support changing U.S. policy to allow more oil and natural gas development along the nation’s coastline, according to a new Harris Interactive poll released today.

That matches the level of support for offshore drilling that was documented by other polls conducted before the Deepwater Horizon disaster two years ago briefly turned some Americans off to the idea.

In the wake of the 2010 oil spill, support for offshore drilling declined slightly, according to some surveys. For instance, Rasmussen Reports found that 56 percent of U.S. voters it surveyed in July 2010 backed offshore oil drilling.

The new survey of 1,016 registered voters, conducted Aug. 9-12, was commissioned by the American Petroleum Institute to broadly assess views about energy policy less than three months before the presidential election.

Not surprisingly, 92 percent of the voters surveyed in the poll said “energy security and producing more oil and natural gas here at home” was somewhat or very important to them as they looked ahead to the election in November.

Jack Gerard, president of API, told reporters in a conference call Tuesday that the poll shows “the vast majority” of Americans support boosting access to domestic oil and natural gas resources.

For instance, he noted that according to the survey, 9 out of 10 voters agree that “increased access to domestic oil and natural gas resources could lead to more American jobs.”

When gasoline prices spiked earlier this year, industry representatives — including API — and many congressional Republicans seized on the issue and argued that more domestic oil and gas development would help lower prices at the pump.

When oil prices dropped, much of that talk did too.

But Gerard insists that voters want to hear about energy policy from presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, President Barack Obama and other candidates on the stump.

Gerard said Americans want a “robust and realistic debate about energy priorities.”

The Obama administration recently unveiled a plan for selling offshore drilling leases over the next five years that would schedule 12 auctions of Gulf of Mexico territory and 3 others for waters around Alaska by July 2017. Republicans on Capitol Hill have pressed for a more aggressive schedule.

A Harris Interactive summary of some of the poll questions and results is below:

What America is Thinking on Energy Issues – August 14 2012[1]