Less than 14% of Americans believe the United States is headed in the right direction on energy, according a poll released on Wednesday by the University of Texas at Austin (UT).
The inaugural poll, which was developed by UT’s McCombs School of Business’ Energy Management and Innovation Center, found that more than 84% are worried about U.S. consumption of foreign oil, while 76% are concerned by the lack of progress to develop more efficient energy sources and renewable sources. Sixty-eight percent expressed concerns about the energy efficiency of their homes and more than half (60%) had concerns about global energy issues.
“With energy so critical to our quality of life and economic health, we saw a real need for an ongoing, comprehensive and independent look at consumer energy perspectives,” said UT President Bill Powers. “This survey shows that the public craves leadership on energy issues.”
The UT Energy Poll reflected the views of 3,406 U.S. consumers collected during Sept. 14-25. The data were weighted using U.S. Census Bureau figures, as well as propensity scores, to ensure that the sample’s composition reflected that of the actual U.S. population. Future iterations of the poll, to be conducted twice a year, are expected to provide an energy index to track consumer opinions on energy issues over time, as well as explore topical energy issues.
“Results indicate a lack of satisfaction with leadership for our energy future,” the poll said. “Participants were asked to rate their satisfaction and dissatisfaction with the job that 26 different organizations, corporations, institutions and government bodies were doing to address energy issues. Respondents indicated greatest satisfaction with their own performance, followed by scientists and engineers, academic and research institutions, and renewable energy firms.”
Overall those surveyed were less satisfied with how government and big business were addressing energy issues. Congress, with ratings of 8% satisfied and 71% dissatisfied, ranked dead last.
Energy prices are the most compelling and immediate issue for consumers, according to the survey. Most Americans consider energy prices “as high and likely to increase. For instance, 69% of middle-aged households with children expect energy costs to grow as a percentage of their household budget in the next year. And while only 24% of respondents consider themselves knowledgeable about energy, four out of five consumers are interested in learning more about how to reduce their energy use.”
Energy is not viewed as simply a short-term issue, the UT poll found. More people believe that the nation’s energy situation will be worse in 25 years than believe it will be better, “although younger and more Democratic voters are more optimistic about the future.” More than half (57%) of those surveyed expect to change their behavior and adopt new technologies to address these issues. “Younger respondents, in particular, were more likely to say they expected to use energy-saving alternatives in the next five years, including smart meters, solar panels, and hybrid or electric vehicles.”
Consumers also were found to be less concerned about energy’s impact on the environment than on their wallets. However, they ranked economic growth (37%) only slightly more important than preventing harm to the environment (33%), which suggests support for a balanced approach to energy policy, the poll found.
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