Yet renewable sources, like wind and solar, remain Americans’ overall priority for domestic production
Pew Research Center conducted this study to understand how Americans view climate and energy issues. For this analysis, we surveyed 10,282 U.S. adults from May 2 to 8, 2022.
Everyone who took part in the survey is a member of the Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel that is recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses. This way, nearly all U.S. adults have a chance of selection. The survey is weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education and other categories. Read more about the ATP’s methodology.
As much of Europe grapples with how to reduce its dependence on Russian oil and gas, 61% of Americans say they would favor the United States expanding production to export large amounts of natural gas to European countries. A smaller share (37%) say they would oppose expanding natural gas production to export to countries in Europe.
Seven-in-ten Republicans and Republican-leaning independents favor exporting large amounts of natural gas to European countries, as do a somewhat smaller majority of Democrats and Democratic leaners (55%), a new Pew Research Center survey finds.
In response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, European countries, including Germany and Italy, have announced plans to phase out oil and gas imports from Russia – the largest supplier of energy to Europe. The Biden administration has pledged to increase natural gas exports to the European Union, though a large increase in natural gas exports could face challenges, including production timelines and existing pipeline and export terminal capabilities.
While the survey finds broad support for exporting natural gas to Europe, the findings also underscore how potential impacts on domestic prices are front-of-mind for large shares of Americans.
Two-thirds (67%) say the impact on natural gas prices in the U.S. should be a major consideration when it comes to whether the U.S. should export large amounts of natural gas to European countries. Both those in favor of and opposed to exporting U.S. natural gas to Europe agree that the impact on domestic prices should be a major consideration.
Prices rank ahead of other considerations, including the impact on climate change and the Russian economy. About half (51%) say the impact on climate change should be a major consideration when it comes to whether the U.S. should export large amounts of natural gas to Europe. Those who oppose increasing natural gas exports to Europe are more likely than those who favor this to say that climate impacts should be a major consideration (64% vs. 44%). Climate experts have raised concerns about the effects that President Joe Biden’s plan to increase natural gas exports might have on the administration’s climate goals.
The impact on the Russian economy is seen as less of a factor for Americans: 33% say it should be a major consideration when it comes to whether the U.S. should increase natural gas exports to European countries. A separate Pew Research Center report released this week finds that 75% of Americans approve of the U.S. placing strict economic sanctions on Russia.
The Pew Research Center survey of 10,282 U.S. adults conducted from May 2 to 8, 2022, finds that Americans’ broader priorities for domestic energy production remain largely stable since earlier in the year, despite uncertainty in global energy markets driven by the war in Ukraine and rising oil and gas prices in the U.S.
A large majority of U.S. adults (67%) continue to say developing alternative energy sources, such as wind and solar, should be the more important priority for addressing America’s energy supply; roughly half as many (32%) say the more important priority should be expanding the production of oil, coal and natural gas. These views are little different than they were in January.
And when it comes to specific sources of energy production, large majorities say they favor more solar panel farms (86%) and more wind turbine farms (79%), consistent with the overall emphasis on renewable domestic sources of production.
However, partisan differences over the country’s energy priorities are now as wide as they have been in recent years, largely reflecting a shift among Republicans toward greater emphasis on fossil fuels during the Biden administration. Within the last year, the shares of Republicans who support more offshore oil and gas drilling as well as more hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas have both increased.
Impact on climate change a higher consideration for Democrats than Republicans
Majorities of both Republicans and Democrats say the impact on natural gas prices in the U.S. should be a major consideration when it comes to whether to export natural gas to countries in Europe: 75% of Republicans say this, as do a somewhat smaller 60% majority of Democrats.
By comparison, Democrats (73%) are much more likely than Republicans (24%) to say that the impact on climate change should be a major consideration when it comes to whether the U.S. should export large amounts of natural gas to European countries.
Differences in views are especially wide between those at the ends of the political spectrum: 81% of liberal Democrats say climate change should be a major factor in such a decision, compared with just 16% of conservative Republicans.
Relatively smaller shares of both Democrats (37%) and Republicans (30%) say that the impact on the Russian economy should be a major consideration when it comes to whether to increase natural gas exports to Europe.
Americans continue to prioritize the development of alternative energy over fossil fuels
A majority of Americans (67%) say that the more important priority for the country is to develop alternative energy sources, such as wind and solar. A smaller share (32%) say that the more important priority is to expand the production of oil, coal and natural gas. These views are about the same as they were in January, when 69% said developing alternative energy sources such as wind and solar should be the more important priority for the country.
About nine-in-ten Democrats and Democratic leaners (88%) continue to say the U.S. should prioritize the production of alternative energy sources, consistent with views expressed in recent years.
Among Republicans and Republican leaners, more say the U.S. should prioritize the production of oil, coal and natural gas rather than alternative sources such as wind and solar (59% vs. 41%). This balance of opinion is about the same as it was in January. However, support for prioritizing the development of alternative energy sources remains much lower among Republicans than in May 2020, during the last year of the Trump administration. At that time, about two-thirds (65%) of Republicans said developing alternative sources like wind and solar should be the more important priority for the U.S.
When asked about specific sources of energy individually, Americans continue to express the broadest support for expanding wind and solar energy production – consistent with the greater priority they assign to developing alternative energy generally.
Overall, 86% say they favor more solar panel farms and 79% favor more wind turbine farms.
A slight majority of Americans (54%) favor more nuclear power plants, while 44% are opposed.
Smaller shares of Americans favor more offshore oil and gas drilling (48%) or more hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas (45%). However, the shares of Americans who support more offshore drilling and fracking are both up slightly from April of 2021 (by 5 and 4 percentage points, respectively). See the Appendix for details.
Majorities of both Republicans and Democrats favor increasing the use of solar and wind energy, although support for doing so remains lower among Republicans than Democrats.
Partisan differences over expanding oil and gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing have edged wider in recent years. In the new survey, 76% of Republicans favor more offshore oil and gas drilling, compared with 27% of Democrats.
Support for the increased use of nuclear power is up modestly among both party groups over the last year, though Republicans remain more likely to favor increasing the use of nuclear power (66%) than Democrats (48%).
Few Americans know that the U.S. produces most of the energy it uses
Most Americans are aware that the U.S. relies primarily on fossil fuels to meet its energy needs. However, relatively few Americans know that the U.S. produces most of the energy it uses within the country.
Overall, 28% of Americans say correctly that the U.S. produces most of the energy it uses inside of the U.S. Roughly a quarter (27%) say they’re not sure where most of the energy that the U.S. uses is produced. The remainder say either that the U.S. imports most of its energy (19%) or that it produces about half and imports about half of the energy it uses (25%).
The public is much more familiar with the type of energy the country relies on. About three-quarters of Americans (74%) say correctly that the U.S. relies mostly on fossil fuel sources such as oil, coal and natural gas to meet its energy needs. Much smaller shares think the U.S. relies mostly on renewable energy sources (5%) or nuclear power (3%); 17% say they are not sure.
Americans with higher levels of formal education are more likely to know that the U.S. produces most of the energy it uses inside of the U.S. Still, this fact is not widely known even among those with the highest levels of education. About a third (35%) of adults with a postgraduate degree correctly say the U.S. produces most of the energy it uses within the country, compared with 26% of those with a high school or less education.
When it comes to U.S. reliance on fossil fuel sources, majorities across all levels of education are aware that the country relies mostly on fossil fuels. Those with a college degree or more education are somewhat more likely than those with some college experience or less education to know this.