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Majority Opposition to Drilling Includes Coastal Republicans

Off Shore Oil Rig Drilling Off Coast Of Southern California

In yet another sign that the shifting federal policy landscape is at odds with California public opinion, the Trump administration is proposing new offshore oil and gas drilling across all of the nation’s coastal waters. The five-year leasing plan includes areas previously off limits to oil and gas exploration since the 1980s. It proposes to open up 90% of the nation’s offshore reserves through new federal leases. California’s governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, and US senators—quick to voice their opposition to this proposal—are aligned with most Californians’ views on offshore oil drilling.

The PPIC Statewide Survey has asked the question, “Do you favor or oppose allowing more oil drilling off the California coast?” every July since 2003. In the 2017 PPIC survey, a record low 25% of California adults favored more oil drilling off the California coast while a record high 69% opposed it. What’s most remarkable is the agreement over time on the topic of offshore oil drilling. Since the early 2000s, a slim majority has been in favor of drilling only twice (51% in 2008 and 2009); in most years a majority has opposed it. Moreover, public consensus on this topic has grown. Since July 2012, support for more oil drilling has dropped by 23 points (48% to 25%) while opposition has grown by 21 points (48% to 69%).

In the 2017 PPIC Survey, a surprising level of agreement on the topic occurred across all major demographic categories of California residents. Majorities were opposed across age, education, gender, income, and racial/ethnic groups. Strong majorities across the state’s major regions opposed more drilling. That includes coastal Californians (23% favor, 72% oppose) and inland Californians (29% favor, 64% oppose) alike.

It is often said that the Trump administration is “playing to its base” in a polarized environment by proposing policies that are clearly at odds with Californians’ views. However, we found in the 2017 survey that majorities of conservatives, moderates, and liberals alike (55%, 71%, 83%, respectively) opposed more oil drilling off the coast. Democrats (14% favor, 81% opposed) and independents (30% favor, 68% opposed) were strongly opposed, while Republicans were divided (50% favor, 45% oppose). However, majorities of coastal Republicans joined with other regional and political groups in opposing more offshore oil drilling.

What’s behind the solid public opposition to more offshore oil drilling in California? In the 2017 PPIC Survey, 73% of California adults said that the condition of the ocean and beaches was very important to the economy and quality of life for California’s future. We found that those who held these views—and they were widely held across political, demographic, and regional groups—were overwhelmingly opposed to more offshore oil drilling.

Stay tuned as the PPIC Statewide Survey monitors this topic and other issues—such as the Affordable Care Act, climate change and energy, federal tax reform, marijuana legalization, and immigration—as changing federal policies may have big effects on California. We are planning for an interesting and important year for PPIC polling in 2018!

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