(AP-NORC Center Center for Public Affairs Research)
A key reason for this can be found in a survey finding shown in the chart above. Asked how important seven broad issues ranging from the economy to the federal budget deficit are, partisan differences go from small to large. But the gap is greatest when it comes to the environment. Eighty-one percent of Democrats said protecting the environment is personally important to them; only 52 percent of Republicans did.
That plays out in many of their responses to energy questions in the survey:
• 79 percent of Democrats think the government should be extremely or very involved in finding energy solutions; 42 percent of Republicans agree.
• 34 percent of Democrats cite government limits on oil and gas drilling as a major reason for the nation's energy problems and 75 percent of Republicans do; 47 percent of Democrats favor policies encouraging more drilling; 78 percent of Republicans do.
• 75 percent of Democrats report that a major reason for the nation’s energy problems is that industry does not invest enough to support clean energy sources like wind and solar; only 43 percent of Republicans agree.
• 67 percent of Democrats favor government incentives for energy companies to develop alternative energy sources; 43 percent of Republicans favor these.
• 81 percent of Democrats and 57 percent of Republicans favor government-funded programs to teach consumers to make choices that will save energy.
• 76 percent of Democrats and 42 percent of Republicans favor financial incentives for consumers to help them buy energy-saving products.
• 55 percent of Democrats and 25 percent of Republicans favor regulations limiting how much energy things like cars and appliances can use.
• 85 percent of all respondents say it is a serious problem that the United States needs to buy energy from other countries. But 65 percent of Republicans say the main reason is that U.S. does not produce enough domestic energy to meet demand; 51 percent of Democrats say the main reason is that people use (and waste) too much energy.
Although Americans in both parties have strong opinions about energy and energy use, with nearly 90 percent saying they have tried to do something in the past year to conserve energy, fewer than 20 percent are aware of local, state and federal programs that provide tax credits for home renovation for conserving energy and installation of alternative energy sources, rebates for buying energy-saving technologies, home energy audits, hybrid car tax credits or LEED certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, which rates buildings, including residences, for energy efficiency, among other things).
Despite their lack of knowledge about these programs, nearly half of those surveyed say they use somewhat or a lot less energy than others in their community. Only nine percent think their consumption is above average.