Natural Gas and Oil Perceptions Improving while Nuclear Power Perceptions Sink

    NEW YORK, N.Y. Ð March 20, 2014 Ð A growing majority of Americans (65%, up from 61% in 2012 and 59% in 2009) say that they are knowledgeable about energy sources, but are they showing a corresponding increase in energy efficiency-related upgrades and behaviors? Majorities of Americans are doing some basic things like turning off lights, televisions or other appliances when not in use (79%, down slightly from 82% in 2012) and replacing incandescent bulbs with fluorescent ones (55%, down slightly from 58%), but many easy lifestyle changes seem to be struggling to show growth in their adoption.

    These are some of the results of The Harris Poll¨ of 2,266 adults, surveyed online between February 12 and 17, 2014.

    Diminishing percentages of Americans report looking for ENERGY STAR labels when replacing appliances (50%, down from 55% in 2012), using low watt bulbs where lighting is not critical (50, down from 54%) and using power strips for home electronics (49%, down from 56%).

    Additionally, fewer than half of Americans have reduced hot water usage through shorter showers or using cold water in their washerÕs rinse cycle (45%), change air filters monthly (41%), use weather stripping around windows or doors to stop air leaks (37%), have installed a programmable thermostat (36%), sealed gaps in floors or walls around pipes or electric wiring (32%), installed energy efficient windows (29%) or low-flow faucets or showerheads (27%), added insulation to an attic, crawl space or accessible exterior windows (26%) or have a TV with Smart technology (24%). Only one ten U.S. adults (10%) have conducted a home energy evaluation or audit.

    Some regional differences exist in these practices and adoptions. For example, just over half of Southerners (53%) change their air filters monthly, in comparison to roughly one-fourth (26%) of Easterners and just over a third (35%) of Westerners; over a third of Westerners (35%) have installed low-flow faucets, compared roughly one-fourth each of those in the East (27%), Midwest (25%) and South (23%); and 36% of those in the Midwest have added insulation to their attic, crawl space or any accessible exterior walls, as opposed to roughly one-fourth each of Easterners (25%), Southerners and Westerners (23% each).

    Consider the source

    But of course, regardless of what Americans are doing with electricity or how much or little much of it theyÕre using, itÕs got to come from someplace. When asked whether the risks outweigh the benefits, or vice versa, for several mainstream and emerging sources of electrical power in the U.S., solar (78%) and wind (76%) are most commonly seen as having benefits which outweigh their risks.

    Natural gas has had Ð no pun intended Ð a few rocky PR years, with hydraulic fracturing being intensely scrutinized; nonetheless, it has grown slightly in the perception of its benefits outweighing its risks (68%, up from 64% in 2011). Nuclear power, on the other hand, shows the inverse, with the 37% of Americans believing its benefits outweigh its risks down seven percentage points from five years ago.

    Roughly half of Americans (52%) believe geothermal energyÕs benefits outweigh its risks, with its main impediment not a perception of risks outweighing benefits (with only 8% believing this), but rather indecision, with 40% of Americans being not at all sure. Meanwhile, Americans are evenly divided on whether coalÕs risks outweigh its benefits (41%) or vice versa (40%).

    Biomass is the biggest question mark, with six in ten U.S. adults (61%) not at all sure of its risks or benefits; three in ten (29%) feel its benefits outweigh its risks, while one in ten (9%) feel the inverse is true.

    There are some generational differences at work in benefit -risk perceptions. Perhaps most notably, each generation is less likely than its elders to believe the benefits of natural gas outweigh the risks (53% Echo Boomers vs. 67% Gen Xers vs. 76% Baby Boomers vs. 86% Matures). Matures are also more likely than any other generation to feel the benefits of coal (32% Echo Boomers vs. 39% Gen Xers vs. 44% Baby Boomers vs. 59% Matures) and nuclear power (34% Echo Boomers vs. 32% Gen Xers vs. 38% Baby Boomers vs. 51% Matures) outweigh the risks.

    Environmental impacts

    When asked to select which two energy sources they believe are best for the environment, Solar (68%) and wind (57%) are the clear front frontrunners, though itÕs worth noting that wind fell by seven percentage points from 2008 findings. Roughly one in ten Americans selected hydro (12%), oil and natural gas (11%), electric (11%) and nuclear power (8%), which also fell seven points in comparison to 2008.

    Turning to those sources seen as the worst environmental offenders, coal (53%) is the top selection when Americans are asked to identify which two sources they feel are worst for the environment.

    The next most common responses, nuclear power (40%) and oil and natural gas (21%), have pulled a switch of sorts since 2008, with selection of the former growing 13 percentage points and the latter dropping by 14 points. Home heating oil selections, at 16%, have dropped 6 points, while ethanol/boil fuel holds steady at 13%.

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    TABLE 1A

    KNOWLEDGE ABOUT ENERGY ISSUES AND ELECTRICAL POWER

    Thinking of something else, how knowledgeable would you say you are about energy issues including sources of electrical power and energy efficiency?Ó

    Base: All adults

    Total 2009

    Total 2011

    Total 2012

    Total 2014

    Region

    East

    Midwest

    South

    West

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Knowledgeable (NET)

    59

    61

    61

    65

    59

    64

    66

    68

    Very knowledgeable

    9

    12

    8

    10

    14

    6

    10

    10

    Somewhat knowledgeable

    50

    49

    53

    55

    45

    58

    56

    58

    Not knowledgeable (NET)

    41

    39

    39

    35

    41

    36

    34

    32

    Not very knowledgeable

    32

    31

    28

    25

    32

    23

    26

    21

    Not at all knowledgeable

    8

    9

    11

    10

    10

    12

    8

    11

    Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding.


    TABLE 2

    BENEFITS VERSUS RISKS FOR VARIOUS ENERGY SOURCES

    There are many sources of electric power used in the U.S. To the best of your knowledge, would you say the benefits of each source outweigh the risks or do you believe the risks outweigh the benefits?

    Base: All adults

    BENEFITS OUTWEIGH RISKS (NET)

    Benefits strongly outweigh risks

    Benefits somewhat outweigh risks

    RISKS OUTWEIGH BENEFITS (NET)

    Risks somewhat outweigh benefits

    Risks strongly outweigh benefits

    Not at all sure

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Solar

    2014

    78

    63

    15

    7

    4

    3

    15

    2012

    79

    63

    15

    8

    4

    4

    13

    2011

    77

    64

    13

    8

    3

    6

    14

    2009

    82

    68

    14

    5

    3

    2

    13

    Wind

    2014

    76

    56

    20

    9

    5

    4

    15

    2012

    76

    61

    16

    9

    5

    5

    15

    2011

    75

    61

    14

    10

    3

    7

    15

    2009

    78

    62

    17

    7

    4

    2

    15

    Natural gas

    2014

    68

    34

    34

    15

    11

    4

    17

    2012

    66

    34

    32

    17

    12

    5

    17

    2011

    64

    31

    34

    17

    11

    6

    18

    2009

    66

    30

    36

    14

    11

    3

    20

    Geothermal

    2014

    52

    31

    21

    8

    6

    2

    40

    2012

    53

    32

    21

    10

    6

    4

    37

    2011

    52

    33

    18

    10

    5

    5

    38

    2009

    52

    32

    20

    7

    5

    2

    40

    Coal

    2014

    41

    14

    27

    40

    23

    17

    19

    2012

    42

    15

    27

    40

    23

    17

    18

    2011

    38

    15

    23

    43

    24

    18

    19

    2009

    36

    13

    23

    42

    22

    20

    22

    Nuclear

    2014

    37

    14

    24

    40

    19

    21

    22

    2012

    40

    15

    24

    41

    19

    21

    20

    2011

    42

    20

    22

    37

    18

    19

    21

    2009

    44

    21

    23

    34

    17

    17

    22

    Biomass

    2014

    29

    13

    16

    9

    6

    3

    61

    2012

    30

    13

    17

    12

    8

    4

    58

    2011

    30

    14

    17

    12

    7

    6

    57

    2009

    28

    12

    16

    12

    8

    4

    60

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding


    TABLE 3

    BENEFITS VERSUS RISKS FOR VARIOUS ENERGY SOURCES Ð By Generation and Region

    There are many sources of electric power used in the U.S. To the best of your knowledge, would you say the benefits of each source outweigh the risks or do you believe the risks outweigh the benefits?

    Percentage Saying ÒBenefits Outweigh RisksÓ

    Base: All adults

    Total

    Region

    Generation

    East

    Midwest

    South

    West

    Echo Boomers

    (18-36)

    Gen X (37-48)

    Baby Boomers (49-67)

    Matures (68+)

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Solar

    78

    75

    82

    75

    81

    74

    76

    80

    86

    Wind

    76

    73

    81

    72

    81

    74

    74

    79

    76

    Natural Gas

    68

    64

    74

    65

    71

    53

    67

    76

    86

    Geothermal

    52

    45

    58

    48

    59

    50

    52

    54

    49

    Coal

    41

    35

    48

    42

    40

    32

    39

    44

    59

    Nuclear

    37

    36

    42

    34

    40

    34

    32

    38

    51

    Biomass

    29

    25

    33

    26

    35

    31

    32

    29

    22

    TABLE 4

    DONE ACTIVITIES TO IMPROVE ENERGY EFFICIENCY AT HOME

    Which of the following have you done to improve energy efficiency in your place of living?

    Base: All adults

    Total 2012

    Total 2014

    Region

    East

    Midwest

    South

    West

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Turn off lights, televisions or other appliances when not in use

    82

    79

    77

    81

    81

    78

    Replace incandescent bulbs with fluorescent bulbs

    58

    55

    53

    57

    53

    57

    Look for ENERGY STAR label when replacing large or small appliances

    55

    50

    50

    50

    50

    50

    Use low watt bulbs where lighting is not critical

    54

    50

    47

    50

    48

    54

    Use power strips for home electronics

    56

    49

    47

    51

    44

    54

    Reduce hot water usage by taking shorter showers or using cold water in the rinse cycle in your washer

    48

    45

    42

    43

    45

    49

    Change air filters monthly

    40

    41

    26

    43

    53

    35

    Weather stripping around windows or doors to stop air leaks

    38

    37

    40

    40

    36

    34

    Installed a programmable thermostat

    37

    36

    37

    41

    34

    33

    Seal gaps in floors, walls around pipes or electrical wiring

    34

    32

    32

    36

    31

    30

    Installed energy efficient windows

    28

    29

    33

    31

    24

    30

    Install low-flow faucets or showerheads

    29

    27

    27

    25

    23

    35

    Add insulation to your attic, crawl space or any accessible exterior walls

    27

    26

    25

    36

    23

    23

    Have TV with Smart technology

    21

    24

    22

    19

    25

    27

    Purchased a new HVAC system

    10

    13

    12

    13

    15

    10

    Conducted a home energy evaluation or audit

    11

    10

    10

    10

    10

    12

    Installed a tankless water heater

    3

    4

    8

    3

    4

    4

    Installed Solar technology

    3

    3

    4

    2

    2

    4

    Installed Wind technology

    1

    2

    2

    2

    2

    1

    None of these

    7

    8

    9

    6

    9

    9

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding


    TABLE 5

    BEST ENERGY SOURCES FOR THE ENVIRONMENT

    Thinking about the following energy sources, what two sources do you believe are best for the environment?

    Base: All adults

    Total 2008

    Total 2014

    Generation

    Echo Boomers (18-36)

    Gen X (37-48)

    Baby Boomers (49-67)

    Matures (68+)

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Solar

    69

    68

    70

    73

    68

    58

    Wind

    64

    57

    63

    63

    53

    45

    Hydro

    12

    12

    11

    12

    11

    15

    Oil and Natural Gas

    6

    11

    5

    7

    16

    21

    Electric

    7

    11

    6

    7

    14

    20

    Nuclear Power

    15

    8

    5

    4

    9

    15

    Hydrogen

    8

    5

    5

    4

    5

    3

    Ethanol/Bio fuel

    5

    3

    5

    4

    2

    1

    Coal

    1

    3

    2

    4

    4

    2

    Propane

    1

    1

    3

    1

    1

    Home heating oil

    1

    1

    1

    1

    Other

    1

    1

    1

    2

    1

    Not sure

    7

    10

    11

    10

    8

    9

    Note: indicates a response rate of <0.5%; – indicates no selections

    TABLE 6

    WORST ENERGY SOURCES FOR THE ENVIRONMENT

    Which two sources do you believe are worst for the environment?

    Base: All adults

    Total 2008

    Total 2014

    Generation

    Echo Boomers (18-36)

    Gen X (37-48)

    Baby Boomers (49-67)

    Matures (68+)

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Coal

    57

    53

    53

    51

    55

    51

    Nuclear Power

    27

    40

    38

    46

    41

    34

    Oil and Natural Gas

    35

    21

    33

    22

    15

    9

    Home heating oil

    22

    16

    10

    12

    22

    22

    Ethanol/Bio fuel

    13

    13

    11

    11

    13

    18

    Propane

    6

    7

    9

    8

    4

    6

    Hydrogen

    3

    5

    2

    3

    7

    6

    Wind

    1

    3

    3

    1

    2

    5

    Electric

    4

    3

    3

    4

    2

    Solar

    2

    2

    1

    2

    2

    Hydro

    1

    2

    2

    1

    2

    1

    Other

    4

    2

    2

    2

    2

    2

    Not sure

    13

    17

    16

    18

    16

    22

    Note: indicates a response rate of <0.5%; – indicates no selections


    Methodology

    This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between February 12 to 17, 2014 among 2,266 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondentsÕ propensity to be online.

    All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words Òmargin of errorÓ as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

    Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

    These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

    The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.

    Product and brand names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

    The Harris Poll¨ #26, March 20, 2014

    By Larry Shannon-Missal, Harris Poll Research Manager

    About Nielsen & The Harris Poll

    On February 3, 2014, Nielsen acquired Harris Interactive and The Harris Poll. Nielsen Holdings N.V. (NYSE: NLSN) is a global information and measurement company with leading market positions in marketing and consumer information, television and other media measurement, online intelligence and mobile measurement. Nielsen has a presence in approximately 100 countries, with headquarters in New York, USA and Diemen, the Netherlands. For more information, visit www.nielsen.com.