Americans Aren't Red or Blue, They're Green, Group Says

By Nathan Burchfiel | July 7, 2008 | 8:31 PM EDT

( - More Americans from all sides of the political spectrum are embracing "environmentally friendly" positions, according to a survey released Wednesday by an environmental group.

The survey of 1,417 likely voters conducted by the Opinion Research Corporation (ORC) for the Civil Society Institute (CSI) projected that more than 45 million likely voters could be labeled "red, white and green."

Thirty percent of respondents agreed with five "pro-environment" positions on energy conservation, making the United States less dependent on foreign oil, higher fuel efficiency standards for cars, purchasing hybrid cars and reducing pollution to fight global warming.

"This is a new kind of patriotism," CSI President Pam Solo said in a conference call Wednesday, "one that makes the connections and links between a national security agenda and an energy policy that protects the environment."

According to the group, 43 percent of the "red, white and green" voters identified themselves as moderate, 32 percent identified themselves as liberal and 22 percent identified themselves as conservative.

According to the survey, 60 percent of likely voters favor "conservation such as higher fuel efficiency rules for cars" over "development of new domestic oil resources" that might mean drilling in national forests and other environmentally sensitive areas.

Jared Carpenter, vice president of the Council of Republicans for Energy Advocacy, criticized the survey for offering "false choices."

"Most Americans want diverse energy supplies to keep energy affordable," Carpenter said, "and they're just offering either conservation or exploration in a sensitive area. There's no mention of exploration in non-sensitive areas."

"I'm sure most people think of drilling in national forests and they think drilling in Yosemite or Yellowstone," Carpenter said. "They're not taking into account that we can have domestic energy exploration that is responsible."

Graham Hueber, senior project manager for ORC, told Cybercast News Service the numbers would have been different if the survey had described a potential drilling area in a different way.

"Yes, question wording has an effect on the way people answer," Huebert said, but the use of the phrase 'even if that means drilling in national forests and other environmentally sensitive areas' lays out the alternatives to conservation "in a pretty fair way."

Solo added that it's accurate to describe proposed drilling areas, like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) as sensitive areas, because "that is in fact where the proposed drilling would be. You could try to describe it a different way, but it would be inaccurate."

Arctic Power, a non-profit group that supports opening ANWR, describes the portion of the refuge proposed for oil exploration as "an almost featureless expanse, barren and dotted with thousands of unconnected small ponds."

Huebert defended the survey's description of the alternative to conservation, saying a different description would be "vaguely worded," but "then it's hard to know exactly what people were thinking of when they answered it."

Carpenter had a problem with the specific wording. "Everybody's concerned about protection of the environment," he said, "but they're making this ... very black and white."

"They don't talk about energy diversity or anything like that," Carpenter said of the survey questions. "They don't talk about responsible exploration. They don't even talk about conservation."

More government leadership

The survey also found that 75 percent of likely voters want "more leadership from the Federal government to reduce the pollution linked to global warming," while only 21 percent do not want more federal involvement.

Eighty-seven percent of likely voters said they believed government action would be "important ... to achieve the 40 miles per gallon fuel efficiency target for U.S. cars."

More than 70 percent of likely voters said it is "patriotic to drive a more fuel-efficient vehicle since it requires less fuel to run, and therefore, can help reduce the U.S. dependency on Middle Eastern oil."

Solo predicted the "green" voters would have "huge" impact on the 2006 and 2008 elections, citing a survey finding that 67 percent of respondents would consider "voting for or against a political candidate based on his or her views on energy and global warming issues."

Solo and Hueber declined to comment on how important environmental issues are to voters when compared to other issues like abortion, immigration and foreign policy, because the survey did not address those differences.

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