WASHINGTON, DC, May 18, 2017 (ENS) – A new public opinion poll finds that the majority of Americans support government regulations as the best way to encourage use of renewable energy, while a minority believes the private marketplace can do the job.

A new Pew Research Center survey of 1,000 U.S. adults shows that a 54 percent majority believes that “government regulations are necessary to encourage businesses and consumers to rely more on renewable energy sources.”

Just 38 percent support the idea that “the private marketplace will ensure that businesses and consumers rely more on renewable energy sources, even without government regulations.”

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Sun rises over a solar power array in Mammoth, California, Dec. 28, 2016 (Photo by Steelmaster Buildings)

“Americans tend to support a ‘check all that apply’ approach to energy policy,” said Cary Funk, lead author and associate director of research at Pew Research Center.

“About half of the public believes that a range of environmental and economic considerations should be top priorities in the country’s energy policies,” said Funk.

“While there are sizeable partisan divides over how much importance to place on protecting the environment in energy policy, Republicans and Democrats hold more similar views about the importance of low consumer costs and creating jobs in the energy sector,” he explained.

Still, a “close divide” exists on a core question shaping policy debates today – whether it is possible to cut back environmental regulations and still effectively protect water and air quality.

Some 49 percent think it is possible to trim regulations and still protect air and water, compared with 47 percent who believe it is not possible to protect those resources with fewer regulations.

The survey also finds that 54 percent of American adults believe the Trump administration is doing too little to protect the environment, while 30 percent think the administration is doing “about the right amount.” Just five percent believe the administration is doing too much.

Among the main findings:

Americans, as a whole, support giving priority to both environmental and economic dimensions of energy policy:

  • 53 percent say protecting the environment from the effects of energy development and use should be a “top priority”
  • 52 percent describe increasing reliance on renewable energy sources as a top priority
  • 49 percent think creating jobs within the energy sector should be a top priority
  • 49 percent maintain that keeping consumer energy prices low should be a top priority
  • 48 percent see reducing dependence on foreign energy sources as a top priority

Most Americans see renewable energy sources as effective in minimizing air pollution:

  • 88 percent say solar power is “very effective” (68 percent) or “somewhat effective” (20 percent) in minimizing air pollution
  • 84 percent think wind power is “very effective” (63 percent) or “somewhat effective” “(21 percent) in minimizing air pollution

The public is less confident about whether other energy sources are effective in minimizing air pollution:

  • 55 percent say nuclear power is “very effective” (28 percent) or “somewhat effective” (27 percent) in minimizing air pollution.
  • 72 percent of adults believe natural gas is “very” (30 percent) or “somewhat effective” (42 percent) in minimizing air pollution.
  • Minorities consider either oil (41 percent) or coal (34 percent) at least somewhat effective in minimizing air pollution.

These are some findings from a Pew Research Center survey conducted among a nationally representative sample of 1,012 adults, ages 18 or older from May 3-7, 2017. The margin of sampling error based on the full sample is plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.

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