A recent Harris Poll of Americans' attitudes towards renewable energy and other issues had a few interesting findings that jumped out at us.
First, Americans overwhelmingly view renewable energy as not being harmful to the environment. For solar, 85% say it's "not harmful," while just 4% say it's "harmful." For wind, the numbers are similar, with 83% saying it's "not harmful," and just 5% saying it's "harmful." In contrast, Americans are divided on "clean coal" (note: in our view, all coal is dirty, none of it is "clean"), with 34% calling it "harmful," 42% saying it's "not harmful," and 24% "not at all sure."
Second, by a 77%-16% margin, Americans say that a candidate's position on energy policy is important to how they vote. This ranks even higher than environmental policy, immigration policy, education policy, and homeland security policy, although those are also considered important by large majorities of Americans.
Third, with regard to natural gas "fracking," Americans are deeply split, with 32% saying that the benefits outweigh the risks, and 31% saying that the risks outweigh the benefits (a plurality of 38% just aren't sure).
It would be interesting to see what the numbers were on other fuel sources, such as just plain "coal" (not the PR term "clean coal") or oil. It would also be interesting to know how Americans' attitudes would shift if they were fully informed as to the risks of fossil fuel techniques such as "fracking," as well as to the benefits - economic, environmental, national security - of clean energy sources. Our guess is that the more Americans know, the more they'll support clean energy investment and the more they'll oppose dirty energy subsidies.