UT Energy Poll Reveals Contradictions [Watch]

UT’s fifth and latest energy poll, released last week, shows a drop in interest in energy and related issues, as well as a disconnect between the public and energy education. Taking into account factors like gender, race, age, income, and political affiliation, the survey drew from the responses of more than 2,000 Americans.

“Public perception matters because it shapes our energy future,” says Energy Poll director Sheril Kirshenbaum. “What we think determines our priorities and who we elect to office, which sets the course for what happens next.”

Kirshenbaum, who has led the poll since 2012, says the results have been used in publications like USA Today and Bloomberg, and have been cited in policy hearings.

One of the poll’s many contradictory results: the majority of the population said they oppose hydraulic fracturing but support the use of natural gas—a process and energy source that go hand-in-hand. Inconsistencies like these can be attributed to lack of understanding, Kirshenbaum says.

“I think the first step is to educate the public about what this technology involves,” Kirshenbaum says. “A lot about what we think about fracking is influenced by what we hear in the media. Less than half of the public is familiar with the term.”

Only 37 percent of participants believe that their own personal actions make any real dent in energy related issues. Those polled were much more likely to attribute this power to corporations.

“This is telling us that we need to change the way we speak to the public about taking action for the environment,” Kirshenbaum says.

The poll also looked at how sensitive public response is to the language used when discussing energy. For whatever reason, men place less trust in the marketing term “energy saving” than they do “energy efficient,” while women trust both equally. Men are also more than twice as likely to self-profess their knowledge of energy related issues, while women are more likely to blame themselves for not doing enough.

The percentage of participants who believe that climate change is occurring, 73 percent, has remained the same after experiencing an 8-percent jump a year ago. Kirshenbaum says she believes this is a good thing.

“The big shift was probably reflective of extreme weather events and the extent the topics that were covered in the media at that time,” she says. “Holding steady isn’t bad. It shows acceptance of a change in public perception, something we’d love to see more of in the future.”


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