Poll: Obama, McCain supporters largely agree on alternative energy

WASHINGTON — Most of John McCain’s and Barack Obama’s supporters are in favor of government backing for alternative energy such as wind and solar power, according to a national poll released Tuesday.

Among those polled, support was weaker for the traditional sources of electrical power: coal and oil.

The poll found that 75 percent of Obama’s supporters and 60 percent of McCain’s said that the government should require utilities to use more alternative energy sources such as wind and solar power even if it increases costs in the short run. Among undecided voters, 59 percent agreed.

Obama calls for 10 percent of U.S. electricity coming from renewable sources by 2012 and 25 percent by 2025. McCain hasn’t called for such a plan, and in 2002 and 2005 he voted against federal mandates for a percentage of electricity from renewable energy.

The poll was conducted by WorldPublicOpinion.org, a research project managed by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland . The pollsters asked questions of 1,174 Americans on Aug. 9-20 .

The pollsters asked whether a major shift to alternative energy sources would save money in the long run or cost so much that it would hurt the economy. Most said that it would save money: 73 percent of McCain’s supporters, 83 percent of Obama’s supporters and 82 percent of those who are undecided.

General support for wind and solar energy was strong. Eighty-nine percent of Obama supporters, 86 percent of McCain supporters and 83 percent of undecided respondents favored more emphasis on these forms of alternative energy.

By contrast, 19 percent of Obama’s supporters and 34 percent of McCain’s supporters favored more emphasis on building new oil- and coal-fired power plants. The breakdown on this question showed that 57 percent of Obama supporters and 41 percent of McCain supporters wanted less emphasis on oil and coal as sources of electricity. Those who said the emphasis should remain the same as now: 22 percent of McCain’s supporters and 18 percent of Obama’s.

The split was sharper on nuclear energy. Fifty-four percent of McCain supporters and 33 percent of Obama supporters want more emphasis on nuclear power.

McCain promises government support for 45 nuclear power plants by 2030. Obama has said that waste-disposal problems should be addressed first, a position that probably would slow an immediate move to more nuclear power.

The poll also found that large majorities favor reducing U.S. greenhouse gases. Ninety-four percent of Obama supporters, 63 percent of McCain supporters and 75 percent of undecided voters said the United States should be willing to reduce emissions as part of a new international treaty.

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