Poll: Despite spill, support for oil drilling high

Even after the recent — and highly publicized — oil spill in the Gulf Coast, that’s the overwhelming sentiment from the public, with six in 10 Americans supporting more offshore drilling, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

In addition, a majority believes that the potential economic benefits of offshore drilling outweigh its potential harm to the environment.

Those aren’t the only striking results from this survey, which was conducted after several significant and newsworthy events:

  • Nearly two-thirds of Americans back Arizona’s new controversial immigration law;
  • After the failed car bomb in Times Square, 58 percent of respondents say they’re worried this country will experience another terrorist attack, the highest percentage on this question in almost five years;
  • And in the wake of the federal government’s fraud charges against Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs, a clear majority thinks that the biggest concern about the financial reform legislation moving through Congress is that it won’t go far enough to rein in Wall Street’s perceived excesses.

The more things change …
Yet given these events and findings, perhaps the biggest takeaway from the poll is that the overall political environment remains virtually unchanged.

Half of the nation still approves of President Barack Obama’s job performance; Republicans continue to enjoy an enthusiasm advantage heading into the upcoming midterm elections; and more than eight in 10 remain dissatisfied about the economy.

“The more things change, the more they stay the same,” says Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart, who conducted this survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff. “The dynamics of 2010 are overriding any of these huge events that are happening.”

Adds McInturff, “We have a corrosive economy, and that economy is continuing to be a weight on the political system.”

The poll — which was conducted May 6-10 of 1,000 adults, and which has an overall margin of error of plus-minus 3.1 percentage points — comes after the explosion of an oil rig in the Gulf Coast and its subsequent spill.

Offshore drilling, immigration, terrorism
Despite the spill, 60 percent say they support allowing for more drilling off U.S. coasts, and 53 percent believe that offshore drilling’s potential economic benefits outweigh its potential harm to the environment.

The public is split on the federal government’s response to the spill: 45 percent say it has not done enough, while 43 percent say it has done enough.

By comparison, 50 percent say that British Petroleum, which leased the oil rig, has not done enough, versus 37 percent who think that it has.

Another significant event in recent weeks was Arizona’s new anti-illegal immigration law, which makes it a state crime for a person to be in the country illegally. It also requires local and state law enforcement officials to question people about their immigration status if they suspect those persons are in the country illegally.

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