SOTU: Voters’ Real-Time Opinions on Energy Independence

This is the second installment of a three-part series on voters’ real-time reactions to President Obama’s energy comments in the State of the Union. For Part One: Keystone, click hereFor Part Three: Climate Change, click here.

Most of the lines in President Obama’s State of the Union address last week were engineered to earn applause from Democrats. But there was one section on energy policy that appealed to liberal and conservative voters, according to Morning Consult polling.

People across the ideological spectrum gave positive ratings to Obama when he hit on America’s endless quest towards energy independence. In the speech, Obama cited figures that show the U.S. is among the top producers of everything from oil and to wind power.

Morning Consult polling shows that voters supported those remarks by a margin of 72 percent to 23 percent. Even a plurality of Republicans, 49 percent, logged favorable responses. Those ratings dropped significantly among conservative voters when Obama talked about energy issues, like climate change and the Keystone pipeline.

Results from the survey were calculated using a 30-second clip of the president’s remarks (shown below). During the video, respondents used their mouse to drag a dial along a scale, ranging from “Favorable” to “Unfavorable,” to indicate how they felt about the president’s speech.

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Even though Republicans hover near neutral for most of the segment, that’s a marked improvement over Obama’s remarks about Keystone, when a plurality of GOP voters said they opposed the statements the president made about the pipeline. (For more, check out our story on how the Keystone line played here.)

Democrats and independents were big fans of the energy independence pitch. It’s an argument that can be used to support an array of energy policy items potentially on Congress’ docket – from the development of biofuels and renewables, to increasing domestic oil and gas production, and even building the Keystone pipeline. Alternatively, it could work against proponents of lifting the federal ban on oil exports, a policy endeavor that is a priority for Senate Energy Committee Chair Lisa Murkowski.

Data from the Energy Information Administration shows that within a few years, the vast majority of the energy Americans use, approximately 95 percent, will be produced at home.

Much of that is thanks to the oil and gas boom. The U.S. is now the largest oil producer in the world, increasing production from an average of 5.2 million barrels per day in 2009 to 7.2 million barrels per day in 2013, according to the Congressional Research Service. The same goes for natural gas, which swelled from 21.6 trillion cubic feet to 25.5 trillion cubic feet over the same period.

The oil and gas industry was quick to respond to Obama’s remarks, arguing that the massive increase in production happened with no thanks to the White House.

“Most of this development has occurred in spite of the federal government,” American Petroleum Institute CEO Jack Gerard said in a statement following the speech. “Development on the federal lands under control of the administration has actually gone down consistently, and revenues from leasing also fell by over $1 billion in the last year.”

The administration can take some credit for the increased production of renewables. The White House advocated for the expansion of renewable tax credits that were included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, has fought to keep the wind production tax credit in place, and has also enacted several renewable energy projects on federal lands.

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