Public polling on coal and alternatives

From Global Energy Monitor

2011 polls

A 2011 national poll by CNN and another poll of Appalachian states by Lake Research Partners & Bellwether Research found that most Americans disapprove of mountaintop removal (MTR) mining. The CNN poll of over 1,000 U.S. residents found that 57% say they oppose MTR mining. After criticism of the poll by the West Virginia Coal Association, which suggested the disapproval was due to opposition from non-coal mining states, Earthjustice, Appalachian Mountain Advocates, and the Sierra Club funded the second sample poll of the opinions of 1,315 registered voters in Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, and Tennessee. That survey found that 76% of those polled support fully enforcing and even increasing protections in the Clean Water Act related to MTR mining. Sixty percent said Clean Water safeguards are either good for the economy or have no impact (40 percent and 20 percent, respectively), as compared with 25 percent who think they are bad for the economy. Asked about MTR outside the context of the Clean Water Act, 38% said they oppose the practice while 24% said they support it, and 38% of voters were unsure. When voters were provided with a brief description of the practice (“coal companies in [STATE] mine coal from mountains through a process called mountaintop removal mining where the top of a mountain is removed to extract the coal and waste is disposed in nearby valleys and streams”), opposition increased to 57%, similar to the CNN poll.[1]

2008 Poll shows Amerians oppose mountaintop removal

Stop Mountaintop Removal

The results of nationwide poll on mountaintop removal conducted in October 2008 showed that Americans oppose mountaintop removal coal mining by a wide margin. Researchers questioned 1,000 likely voters nationwide. Half the participants were asked if they supported or opposed mountaintop removal, without any additional information on the subject. 39 percent opposed mountaintop removal, versus 15 percent who supported it. 46 percent were undecided. The other half of partipants were given a short definition of mountaintop removal; of these voters, 61 percent opposed mountaintop removal, versus 16 percent who supported it. 23 percent were undecided. Other findings included:[2]

  • Opposition to mountaintop removal was highest in the Northeast, where 79 percent of people polled were against it. In the South, which included the biggest eastern coal states of Kentucky and West Virginia, opposition was 59 percent.
  • By a margin of more than 2 to 1, voters polled disagreed that environmental protections are bad for jobs and business. 47 percent believed environmental protections are good for the economy, versus 20 percent who believed such protections are bad for the economy.
  • Two-thirds of Americans are against the repeal of the stream buffer zone rule, which bans mining activities within 100 feet of streams.

Opinion Research Corporation U.S. Polling

In October, 2007, Civil Society Institute released the results of a poll of 1,003 U.S. citizens conducted by Opinion Research Corporation.

The authors of the poll reported: "75 percent of Americans –-including 65 percent of Republicans, 83 percent of Democrats and 76 percent of Independents --would 'support a five-year moratorium on new coal-fired power plants in the United States if there was stepped-up investment in clean, safe renewable energy --such as wind and solar --and improved home energy-efficiency standards.' Women (80 percent) were more likely than men (70 percent) to support this idea.Support also was higher among college graduates (78 percent) than among those who did not graduate from high school (68 percent).[3]

The exact question posed by the survey was as follows: More than half of power plant-generated electricity comes from coal. Experts say that power plants are responsible for about 40 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide pollution linked to global warming. There are plans to build more than 150 new coal-fired power plants over the next several years. Would you support a five-year moratorium on new coal-fired power plants in the United States if there was stepped-up investment in clean, safe and renewable energy –such as wind and solar –and improved home energy-efficiency standards? Would you say definitely yes, probably yes, probably no, definitely no, or don't know.

The results were as follows:[4]

  • 30% "definitely yes"
  • 45% "probably yes"
  • 13% "probably no"
  • 8% "definitely no"
  • 4% "don't know"

In June, 2008, Opinion Research Corporation asked the same question again. The results were as follows:[5]

  • 38% "definitely yes"
  • 37% "probably yes"
  • 11% "probably no"
  • 11% "definitely no"
  • 3% "don't know"

Opinion Research Corporation Montana poll, October 2008

A survey conducted by the Opinon Research Corporation for and the Civil Society Institute found that Montanans favor renewable energy and energy efficiency over fossil fuels and nuclear power. The survey of 601 Montana residents found that:[6]

  • Almost 70 percent of Montana residents support a moratorium on new coal-fired power plants. When brokent down by political party, the freeze on new coal plants is favored by 83 percent of Democrats, 59 percent of Republicans, and 53 percent of Independents.
  • 56 percent of Montana residents prefer energy soures such as solar and wind, increased energy efficiency, and highly fuel-efficient vehicles as a means to achieving independence to foreign energy, as opposed to only 35 percent who favor oil from offshore drilling, more coal power plants, and nuclear power.
  • Only 10 percent of Montana residents favor allowing coal-to-liquids technology. 39 percent oppose subsidies for CTL under any circumstnces, and 48% would allow subsidies only with strict environmental controls. poll, November 2008

A poll of over 20,000 people in 21 nations found strong support for government requirements that utilities us more alternative energy, such as wind and solar, and requiring businesses to use energy more efficiently, even if these steps result in increased costs for energy and other products. Less than half of the nations polled favored an increased emphasis coal, oil, or nuclear energy.

Interviews were conducted in the U.S., China, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Russia, Argentina, Azerbaijan, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hong Kong, Italy, Jordan, Kenya, Macau, Mexico, the Palestinian Territories, Poland, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, and Ukraine.

Asked how much emphasis government should place on a variety of approaches to new energy generation, the most popular tactic was to increase emphasis on solar and wind energy. Majorities favored it in 20 of the 21 nations, averaging 77 percent. Only Russia, which is a major oil producer, lagged behind, with 50 percent in favor. Even with increased costs for alternative energy, majorities in all but two countries were in favor, averaging 69 percent. Russia had and Azerbaijan (also an oil producer) had fewer than half in favor. Increasing energy efficiency was the second most popular approach with an average of 74 percent in favor.

Only 40 percent of respondents favored putting more emphasis on nuclear energy, with 9 of the 21 countries favoring the idea, including China (63%), Jordan (58%), Kenya (57%) and Nigeria (56%). On average only 40 percent of those polled supported putting more emphasis on building coal or oil-fired plants. Only seven nations favored doing so, including Kenya (69%), Jordan (63%), Argentina (60%), Nigeria (56%) and Turkey (52%).[7]

Washington Post/ABC News Poll, December 2008

A poll conducted of 1,003 adults across the United States found that, in addition to focusing on the economy, 84 percent of respondents want Barack Obama to require electricity companies to increase the use of renewable energy sources. 55 percent want the new President to tackle the issue immediately upon taking office in January.[8] The poll also found that 67 percent of Americans believe that Obama will be able to implement policies to reduce global warming.[9]



  1. Trip van Noppen, "Mountaintop-removal mining is unpopular even in coal country " Grist, Aug. 16, 2011.
  2. "Americans oppose mountaintop removal, according to poll," The Charleston Gazette, October 23, 2008.
  3. Opinion Research Corporation, A Post Fossil-Fuel America, Executive Summary, National Opinion Survey Produced for Citizens Lead for Energy Action Now (CLEAN), A Project of the Civil Society Institute, October 18, 2007
  4. Opinion Research Corporation, A Post Fossil-Fuel America, National Opinion Survey Produced for Citizens Lead for Energy Action Now (CLEAN), A Project of the Civil Society Institute, page 18, October 18, 2007
  5. Opinion Research Corporation, "Attitudes about gasoline prices and U.S. energy independence," National Opinion Survey Produced for Citizens Lead for Energy Action Now (CLEAN), A Project of the Civil Society Institute, page 33, June 26, 2008
  6. "Montana Energy/Climate Survey: 72% Favor Ending 'Tax Holiday' for Oil & Gas Producers, 7 out of 10 Favor Freeze on Coal-Fired Power Plants," PR Newswire, October 23, 2008.
  7. "World Publics Strongly Favor Requiring More Wind and Solar Energy, More Efficiency, Even If It Increases Costs,", November 19, 2008.
  8. "Optimism High About Obama Policies, Poll Finds," Washington Post, December 21, 2008.
  9. Washington Post-ABC News Poll, Washington Post, December 21, 2008.

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