UT Poll Shows How Energy Issues May Affect the Election

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This November, two candidates will go head-to-head in hopes of becoming the next president of the United States. While energy policy has not been at the forefront of the election so far, a new UT poll suggests that it’s still on voters’ minds.

The latest UT Energy Poll, which was released in late spring, shows that American voters say they are more likely to vote for a presidential candidate who supports increased funding for scientific and university research into new energy technologies, according to poll director Sheril Kirshenbaum. Taking into account factors like political affiliation, race, age, and gender, the poll drew responses from more than 2,000 Americans.

The poll found that 67 percent of men and 54 percent of women say they are more likely to vote for a presidential candidate who supports funding research. It also shows that 74 percent of Democrats say they are more likely to vote for such a candidate, compared with 51 percent of Republicans and 54 percent of independents. The stark difference between Democrats and Republicans may be attributed to the upcoming election, since issues tend to become more polarized during election years, Kirshenbaum says.

“There are some pretty big party divides, and I think that reflects the way that energy is a very politicized, partisan issue on various levels,” Kirshenbaum says. “We always see a split on pretty much every voting issue. My prediction is that as we’re going toward an election, things are going to get more heated and more politicized, and the split between Democrats and Republicans will get a bit wider.”

Kirshenbaum also says she was struck by the disparity between the number of men and women who support research for new technologies. She says that since 2011, data from the poll have indicated that men are more engaged in energy issues and report more knowledge than women.

“We see a gender divide on all sorts of issues,” Kirshenbaum says. “With women, we usually see a lot more neutral responses. However, we now see that more women are going into disciplines related to energy and are getting more involved in the policy conversations. Maybe that’s indicative that we’re moving in the right direction.”

The poll also surveyed Americans’ views on climate change, energy security and independence, nationwide interest levels in other energy, and related issues. Roughly 73 percent of all Americans, 90 percent of Democrats, and 54 percent of Republicans surveyed said that they believe climate change is occurring. Fifty-eight percent said that government and industry should work together on energy security.

Regardless of political affiliation, there’s an increase in the percentage of Americans who have energy issues on their minds when they head to the voting booth. Kirshenbaum says this is a good thing.

“I think the main message is simply that people are paying attention to how the candidates feel about energy, whether or not it’s in the news every day,” Kirshenbaum says. “This does seem to be a factor that influences the way people vote. So it would be a good thing for our candidates to address a lot of these issues perhaps more than they already are.”


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