New poll shows voters more concerned with energy policy than environmental policy

Energy policy fell in the middle of voters’ concerns for the coming presidential election, according to a poll released this week.

And despite the angst expressed on Twitter and other social media sites about the absence of climate change in the campaign for the Oval Office, environmental policy ranked last on a list of 10 issues.

Still, 67 percent of voters ranked environmental policies as important.

And 77 percent said they are interested in the candidates’ energy policies. Economic, budget and tax policies took the top three spots, followed by health care and foreign policy.

The results were taken from a Harris Poll survey of 2,562 adults in late September.

The survey didn’t ask which candidate respondents favored, but instead asked what issues they consider most important. It also tracked attitudes by age — older voters rated both energy and environmental policy as more important than younger voters did — and asked about perceived environmental risks for various forms of energy.

Nuclear energy and “clean coal” —which uses technology aimed at reducing the fuel’s emissions –  were considered most harmful to the environment, while wind and solar energy were rated the least harmful.
Natural gas fell in the middle, with 60 percent of people saying natural gas is not harmful to the environment and 23 percent rating it as harmful. Eighteen percent said they weren’t sure.

“Even after the election is over, energy will remain an important subject for Americans because it is also central to so many other policies, especially economic, jobs and environmental policies,” Sarah Simmons, Harris Interactive vice president, said in a statement. “In addition, energy pricing has a significant impact on families — whether it is in the prices they pay at the pump or in the impact energy prices have on the ability of large or small businesses to increase the workforce.”

The survey also asked about attitudes toward hydraulic fracturing, and Simmons said the split results indicate that the public view of natural gas is still “evolving.”

In that, 32 percent said the risks of hydraulic fracturing, including damage to the environment, minor earthquakes and increased water usage, outweigh the benefits, including job creation, economic growth and a domestic energy supply. Thirty-one percent said the benefits outweigh the risks, and 38 percent said they weren’t sure.