Thursday, May 13, 2010

Gulf spill diminishes N.C. support for drilling

For the first time, support among North Carolinians for offshore drilling to explore for energy has declined to below 50 percent, and one reason is the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. A poll by PPP found just last month that 61 percent of N.C. residents supported drilling. President Barack Obama has called for more offshore exploration, including in the Atlantic, and many Tar Heel residents thought he was on the right track.

They still do, in fact. But support has dropped to 47 percent, while 38 percent of the public opposes it, reports Tom Jensen. That's up from 26 percent who opposed it last month. The polling firm had never before found less than majority support for drilling.

Jensen said those who responded to poll questions made it clear that the oil spill in the Gulf was a key reason for the turnaround. Fifty percent said the spill made them less support of drilling, 28 percent said it made no differernce and 22 percent said they were even more supportive.

Jensen said, "The decline in support for drilling has come across party lines. There's been a 17 point drop with independents (from 65% support to 48% support), a 16 point one with Democrats (from 52% to 36%), and an 11 point one with Republicans (from 73% to 62%).

"Interestingly voters in eastern North Carolina seem to be comparatively unaffected by the recent events. Folks in the 252 and 910 area codes remain supportive of drilling at a rate higher than the rest of the state."

Nationally about 55 percent support drilling still while 30 percent oppose it.

Jensen didn't say so, but part of the thinking of many opponents may be what could happen here if ocean currents bring part of the oil spill around Florida and then up the coastline in the Gulf Stream. If the wind should shift and blow from the Northeast at the wrong time, as coastal scientists have shown, it could bring some of the oil to Tar Heel shores. That's what happened in 1988 with the red tide.

No comments: