Competing polls produce mixed views on oil and gas development

When it comes to attitudes about oil and gas drilling, feelings vary depending on whom you ask — and on who’s doing the polling. Two new surveys demonstrate this principle by getting widely divergent public opinions on energy exploration.

A new poll conducted on behalf of the progressive Center for American Progress shows that oil and gas development on federal lands isn’t as popular an idea among Westerners as many might think.

Sixty-five percent of those polled in April and May said that permanently protecting wilderness areas, parks and open space is their most important priority for federal lands, and 63 percent said preserving them for recreational purposes was most important.

Only 30 percent of those polled supported oil and gas drilling.

Hart Research Associates surveyed people who live in Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Nevada, Wyoming, Montana, Oregon and Idaho.

About 1,000 people were contacted overall, with numbers varying by state depending on population.

In a press release announcing the results, the Center for American Progress (CAP) points out that the previous Congress was the only one since World War II that did not preserve any U.S. land, but that the Obama administration had leased 2.5 times more land for drilling than is permanently protected.