Republican Candidates Must Be Strong on Energy

Photo: AP/Eric Gay

New polling emphasizes that support for traditional energy concerns has become a partisan issue. Large majorities of Republicans favor key energy issues—but voters of every ideological stripe say energy issues will be an important part of their voting decisions.

Hickman Analytics Inc., for the Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA), has done polling on energy issues in several key states: Iowa, New Hampshire, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia. While the exact questions asked are not identical in each of the six states, the responses are so similar that assumptions can be made.

For the 2016 presidential candidates, lessons should be learned—to win, candidates must be strong on energy.

In all states polled, the majority of respondents indicated that energy issues will be at or near the top when asked: “Looking ahead, how important are energy issues in terms of how you will vote in the Presidential election next year?” In each state, except West Virginia, 80 percent or more answered: “very important” or “somewhat important.” In West Virginia, though still a majority, the percentage is only 54—though a smaller percentage of West Virginians, 10 percent, claim energy issues will be “not very important” or “not important at all.”

The polling took place in Iowa and New Hampshire in April, South Carolina in May, and in Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina in June.

In Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, Hickman asked how respondents felt about “allowing offshore oil and natural gas drilling north of Alaska, in U.S. waters inside the Arctic Circle.” Overall, a majority of registered voters supported it, though opposition is higher among Democrats.

The numbers on Arctic drilling break out this way:

Iowa New Hampshire South Carolina
Republicans 74% support, 10% oppose 70% support, 18% oppose 76% support, 16% oppose
Independents 48% support, 38% oppose 54% support, 35% oppose 60% support, 32% oppose
Democrats 34% support, 49% oppose 34% support, 54% oppose 51% support, 29% oppose

In Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina, Hickman asked about the Atlantic Coast pipeline project—a 550-mile pipeline that will bring natural gas from West Virginia through Virginia and North Carolina—and found that support is strong and extends across almost every group. As with Arctic drilling, Hickman found that support for this important energy infrastructure project is stronger among Republicans, but even among those who self-identify as liberal, more support than oppose it.

The numbers on the Atlantic Coast pipeline project break out this way:

Virginia West Virginia North Carolina
Republicans 74% support, 12% oppose 79% support, 12% oppose 76% support, 9% oppose
Independents 54% support, 24% oppose 66% support, 25% oppose 56% support, 25% oppose
Democrats 43% support, 38% oppose 67% support, 20% oppose 41% support, 37% oppose

When asked why they support the Atlantic Coast pipeline project, “jobs” was mentioned most frequently with “a positive impact on the economy” being next. “Contribution to energy independence” was also mentioned.

The lesson? Republican and Independent voters understand that energy projects create jobs, help the economy, and energy security.

In Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina, Hickman asked about other energy issues, such as coal-fueled power plants, the Keystone pipeline, offshore drilling, and hydraulic fracturing. Again, support among Republicans and Independents—even many Democrats—is strong on a wide range of energy issues.

“As the primary season approaches, presidential candidates will need to take a strong stance on energy issues for the 2016 election,” CEA President David Holt said. “As we have seen in the past, the success of candidates in 2016 will hinge on their ability to promote issues that foster economic and job growth, while ensuring safety and the protection of our environment. This can be achieved through the promotion of energy infrastructure and production, which will contribute to U.S. self-sufficiency, stimulate the economy, and create jobs.”

Energy provides Republican candidates with an opportunity to stand with voters and offer contrast to Hillary Clinton—whose previous speeches indicate that she will continue President Obama’s energy policies. At her Roosevelt Rally, she repeated one of Obama’s reoccurring themes: “climate change, one of the defining threats of our time.”

As the Hickman/CEA polling shows, the frequently touted fixes for climate change—opposing coal-fueled power plants and blocking fossil-fuel development and infrastructure—directly conflict with what most Americans, especially Republicans and Independents, want.

As we head into the important 2016 election, it is imperative that whoever becomes the 45th president understands energy. Gratefully, as the Hickman/CEA polling indicates, the American public understands its importance.

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy—which expands on the content of her weekly column.


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