Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Partisanship Key Factor for Keystone XL

Written by Korbel student Peter

Recent work by the Pew Research Center has illustrated the strikingly partisan nature of public opinion towards the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry oil derived from Canadian tar sands through the Midwest to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico. In aggregate, the public favors building the pipeline by a margin of more than 2-to-1, and amongst self-identified Republicans, Independents and Democrats , a majority was in favor of the pipeline's construction. Nonetheless, support for the project varies dramatically across the political spectrum.

Pew Research 2013
Breaking the responses down further, by not just party affiliation, but also ideological position within that party, paints a picture of consistent, strong and predictable correlation between a person’s politics and his or her attitude toward the pipeline. In fact, when moving across the political spectrum--sequentially, conservative Republican, moderate or liberal Republican, Independent, conservative or moderate Democrat, and finally liberal Democrat--at each step, support wanes and opposition grows relative to the previous group. Among conservative Republicans, only nine percent oppose the pipeline; at the other end of the spectrum, more than half of liberal Democrats (54%) are against it. As described above, this does not imply comparable numbers of supporters and opponents; liberal Democrats are, in fact, the only cohort with a majority opposed. In all other breakdowns – by gender, age, education, income and region – every group is strongly in favor.

Low numbers of “don’t know” responses amongst all groups across all breakdowns, ranging from three to seven percent, denote the high visibility of the Keystone XL issue. This already-high level of public awareness, combined with the manifest partisan divide, suggests that even in today's highly charged and uncompromising political atmosphere, the pipeline represents an especially intractable problem for American policymakers--overall public support notwithstanding.

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