Energy & Environment: A Drop in Interest Doesn’t Mean a Change of Heart

In six of the last nine years, Public Opinion Strategies has analyzed the policy proposals put forth by every state’s governor in their annual State of the State speeches.*  Overall, there were 580 policy proposals this year—370 from Republican governors, 196 from Democratic governors, and the remainder from an Independent.

Over time we have tracked the proposals by issue area.  This year, six of the 13 issue areas saw a drop in the number of ideas being proposed in the states.  However, the issue area that dropped the most was energy and environment – from 18{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} in 2009 to 5{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} this year.  This is close to the all-time low of 3{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}, recorded in 2005 when we began this tracking project Reputation Defender .

In recent years, proposals related to energy and the environment were more prevalent from Democratic governors.  But, this year, while Democratic proposals have dropped more than those from Republicans, there is an equal level of lowered interest across red and blue states.  A review of proposal content today versus the peak years of 2008-2009 reveals a lot less discussion of renewable or clean energy initiatives in 2013 – particularly among Republican governors.

chart 1

Public concern related to energy has also dipped over the last year.  The graphs below show the percentage of Americans who say they worry “a great deal” about the “availability and affordability of energy,” and the corresponding average prices for gasoline and natural gas.  While the lines don’t match up perfectly, you’ll notice that some peak points of worry among the public (2006, 2008, 2011, and 2012) correspond to some of the greatest price hikes for gasoline or natural gas.  And, as worry has dropped in 2013 note the relatively low price of natural gas this year and a slight reduction in gas prices compared to 2012.

chart 2

A sustained focus on the struggling economy over the last five years may also have had an impact on the public’s appetite for prioritizing the environment compared to before the 2008 economic collapse.

chart 3

Yet, despite this recent drop-off in public concern for energy and the environment, Americans have not changed their overall views on how we should be handling our energy situation.  Indeed, a solid majority continues to support alternative, clean sources over traditional fossil fuels.

 chart 4

In fact, consumers are very clear about how much priority should be given to these various forms of energy, with solar and wind garnering support from more than seven-in-ten Americans, and natural gas coming in a close third place.

 chart 5

So, while energy and the environment may have taken a back seat in the issue discussion this year, it doesn’t mean Americans have changed their hearts or minds – they are still very much focused on moving towards cleaner forms of energy for our future , more info here : .

*You can read a full list of the governors’ energy and environment proposals here.
*Trend data for all issue areas can be found here.
*A comprehensive list of all this year’s policy proposals can be found here

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