Six in ten (61%) Americans describe themselves as knowledgeable about energy issues, including sources of electrical power and energy efficiency, according to results of a new Harris Poll. This is relatively unchanged since 2009 when 59% of Americans described themselves as knowledgeable about energy issues.
Knowledge Varies by Region, Gender
Energy knowledge varies by region and age with Americans in the East (67%) and West (64%) and those older than the age of 65 (65%) most likely to say they are knowledgeable. Three-quarters of men (75%) say they are knowledgeable about energy issues, while less than half (47%) of women say the same.
Most See Solar, Wind Benefits Outweighing Risks
When it comes to sources of energy, the public indicates that the benefits outweigh the risks for wind (75%) and solar power (77%). Natural gas (64%) and geothermal (52%) resonate as beneficial while there is less certainty about the benefits of nuclear (42%) and coal (38%). These views compare to 2009 when at least two-thirds of Americans said that when used, the benefits of solar (82%), wind (78%) and natural gas (66%) outweighed any associated risks.
In 2009, two in five Americans (42%) said the risks of using coal outweighed the benefits while 36% believed the benefits outweighed the risks. Further, almost one-quarter of Americans (22%) said they were not at all sure. Today, that view has not changed very much as 38% say benefits outweigh risks, but 43% believe the risks outweigh the benefits; those unsure has dropped to 19%.
In terms of nuclear power, less than half of Americans (42%) say the benefits outweigh the risks of nuclear energy while 21% are not at all sure and 37% say the risks outweigh the benefits. This poll was taken before the recent earthquake-related nuclear plant crisis in Japan. In 2009, the view on nuclear power was similar, as 44% of Americans said the benefits outweighed the risks and 34% believed the risks outweighed the benefits.
Turning Off Electricity Most Popular Conservation Tactic
Eight in ten Americans (84%) say they turn off lights and appliances when not in use to conserve energy. Americans are also replacing incandescent bulbs with fluorescent bulbs (60%), using power strips (60%), using low-wattage bulbs (56%), purchasing Energy Star appliances (53%), and reducing hot water usage (51%).
However, when it comes to more complex tasks such as weather stripping, sealing gaps and installation of products, the responses drop to between 29% and 38% for each behavior. Even fewer (11%) conduct home energy evaluations or audits. The overwhelming majority of respondents take at least one energy-conserving measure, as only 5% say they engage in none of these activities.
Gallup: 46% Worry about Energy
The US public is more concerned today than a year ago about “the availability and affordability of energy,” according to a recent Gallup poll. Forty-six percent of Americans now say they worry about this a great deal, up 21% from 38% in March 2010. Gallup historical analysis shows today’s level of concern is not extraordinary (the high in the past 10 years was 48% in 2006), but is roughly tied with other high points seen since 2001.
About the Data: This Harris Poll was conducted online within the US between February 14 to 21, 2011 among 3,171 adults aged 18 and older. Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.