Americans really want the US to adopt renewable energy like wind and solar power, while rejecting fossil fuels like coal

Solar installers from Baker Electric place solar panels on the roof of a residential home in Scripps Ranch, San Diego

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Solar installers from Baker Electric place solar panels on the roof of a residential home in Scripps Ranch, San Diego
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Reuters/Mike Blake

  • A new Insider poll found that a large majority of Americans strongly favor cleaner sources of energy over fossil fuels – and it’s a belief that transcends party lines.
  • The data shows that both self-identified Democrats and Republicans support the idea of the nation transitioning towards renewable sources of energy.
  • Solar and wind power were the top two preferred alternative energy sources among both groups of respondents, while coal was ranked dead last.
  • Insider’s results align with other polling data on renewable energy.
  • A Gallup poll from March found that Americans overwhelmingly favor expanding the production of green energy sources, particularly solar and wind. Around half also said they believed there should be less emphasis on coal power.
  • The use of renewable energy sources like wind and solar power has doubled in the last decade, according to the US Energy Information Administration, and federal and state policies combined with the declining cost of production drove much of the growth.
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A new Insider poll found that a large majority of Americans strongly favor cleaner sources of energy over fossil fuels – and it’s a belief that transcends party lines.

The data shows that both self-identified Democrats and Republicans support the idea of the nation transitioning toward renewable sources of energy. Solar and wind power were the top two preferred alternative energy sources among both groups of respondents, while coal was ranked dead last.

Insider’s results align with other polling data on renewable energy. A Gallup poll from March found that Americans overwhelmingly favor expanding the production of green energy sources, particularly solar and wind. Around half also said they believed there should be less emphasis on coal power.

The use of renewable energy sources like wind and solar power has doubled in the last decade, according to the US Energy Information Administration, and federal and state policies combined with the declining cost of production drove much of the growth.

Natural gas, which is a cleaner-burning fossil fuel, overtook coal as the nation’s top source of electricity in 2016, highlighting the energy transition currently underway in the United States.

Both Democrats and Republicans strongly favor renewable sources of energy over fossil fuels

Insider asked 1,090 respondents about which forms of energy they would want to power their neighborhood. The question: “If cost were not an issue, which of the following types of power would you prefer to generate your area’s electricity? Rank them in order of preference.”

To determine Americans’ overall preferences, Insider calculated the average ranking given by respondents to each type of energy. Here is how the data broke down, and other highlights:

  • Solar power was the most preferred form of energy among all respondents with an average rank of 2.7. It drew a similar score among self-identified Democrats at 2.1, then one of 3.5 among self-identified Republicans.
  • Wind was the second-ranked energy source with an average score of 3.5 among all respondents. Meanwhile, self-identified Democrats ranked wind at 3, which was much more favorable than Republicans at 4.2.
  • Hydroelectric power ranked third among all respondents with an average of 4.1. It drew slightly more favorable attitudes among self-identified Democrats at 3.9, compared to Republicans at 4.3.
  • Geothermal power was fourth among all respondents with an average rank of 4.7. It garnered a nearly identical score from self-identified Democrats and Republicans, at 4.6 and 4.8, respectively.
  • Natural gas was the fifth-most preferred form of energy among all respondents with a rank of 4.8. Democrats ranked it at 5.2, though Republicans viewed natural gas more positively at 4.2.
  • Biomass ranked sixth among all respondents with an average of 5.6. Among self-identified Democrats, it drew a score of 5.2. That was slightly more favorable than its score of 6 among self-identified Republicans.
  • Petroleum was sixth among respondents at 6.1. That support was lower among Democrats at 6.7 but higher among Republicans at 5.3, suggesting a partisan gap on petroleum use.
  • Nuclear was seventh among all respondents with a rank of 6.1. The figure was almost identical among self-identified Democrats at 6.2 but it drew slightly more support among Republicans at 5.9.
  • Coal was ranked dead-last among all respondents with an average rank of 7.4, indicating the public would rather turn to the other energy sources listed above. Self-identified Democrats scored it at 8.1, expressing a stronger unfavorable opinion of coal compared to self-identified Republicans at 6.8.

Insider polling data backs up other trends of the public eager to adopt more renewable sources of energy, instead of continuing to rely on fossil fuels that pollute the Earth’s atmosphere and contribute to climate change.

However, the Trump administration has loosened environmental regulations and sought to open up more public lands to drilling, and in June it threw a lifeline to the struggling coal industry by easing restrictions on coal-burning power plants. The Energy Information Administration projects that it won’t reverse coal’s decline and that its share of electricity generation will be 22% in 2020.

Yet as the federal government pulls back from combating climate change under the Trump administration, states and cities are increasingly filling the void, setting the US in an opposite direction the public favors on reducing emissions and developing cleaner sources of energy.

SurveyMonkey Audience polls from a national sample balanced by census data of age and gender. Respondents are incentivized to complete surveys through charitable contributions. Generally speaking, digital polling tends to skew toward people with access to the internet. SurveyMonkey Audience doesn’t try to weight its sample based on race or income. Total 1,090 respondents collected September 6-7, 2019, a margin of error plus or minus 3.07 percentage points with a 95% confidence level.