National support for oil drilling down sharply

NATIONAL SUPPORT FOR OIL DRILLING DOWN SHARPLY…. One of the biggest hurdles to passing an energy/climate bill this year is Republican demands for expanded coastal oil drilling. As it turns out, the policy the GOP insists upon is the same policy the public is quickly turning against.

A new Pew Research Center poll finds that the BP oil spill disaster has grown more serious, Americans’ support for drilling has fallen dramatically.

Opposition to allowing more offshore oil and gas drilling in U.S. waters has grown dramatically in recent months as oil continues to flow into the Gulf of Mexico. For the first time since the question was first asked nearly two years ago, a majority (52%) opposes the government allowing more offshore oil and gas drilling in U.S. waters. That is up from 31% in February and 38% in May, shortly after the April 20 rig explosion that triggered the leak. In April 2009, 68% favored allowing more drilling in U.S. waters; 27% were opposed.

Support for offshore drilling has dropped across party lines, most sharply among Democrats and independents.

A majority of self-described Democrats and independents now oppose expanded offshore drilling, a sharp reversal of attitudes from earlier this year. By a nearly 2-to-1 margin, rank-and-file Republicans still want more drilling, though it’s worth noting that even opposition among Republicans has grown from 19% in May to 34% now.

The results of the latest NBC/WSJ poll weren’t quite as striking, but support for offshore drilling is down significantly since May in this survey, too.

This shift in public attitudes could influence political developments. If the principal obstacle in the Senate on energy policy is expanded drilling, the polls may stiffen bill proponents’ spines, at least a little, knowing that public opinion is on their side.

For that matter, when it comes to the elections, Republicans probably shouldn’t count on “drill, baby, drill” being an electoral winner for them.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.