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Sierra Club
DECEMBER 21, 2004
1:44 PM
CONTACT: Sierra Club 
Annie Strickler, 202-675-2384
Eric Antebi, 415-977-5747
New Poll Shows Majority of Americans Oppose Arctic Refuge Drilling
Zogby Survey Finds 55 Percent Want Alaska Wildlife Refuge Protected; 80 Percent Continue To Favor Renewables, Greater Efficiency Over Drilling; Majority Oppose Tying Drilling to Budget

WASHINGTON -- December 21 -- A new national poll released today finds that a solid majority of Americans from all walks of life oppose allowing oil companies to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. The poll, conducted by Zogby International, found that 55 percent of Americans oppose drilling, while only 38 percent want to allow drilling in the Refuge, a natural treasure which has been off limits to drilling and other industrial development since it was set aside by President Eisenhower in 1960.

Q: Do you think oil companies should be allowed to drill for oil in America’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge?

Allow drilling 38%
Do not allow drilling 55%
Not sure 7%

Drilling boosters in Congress have indicated that they may try again to overturn the Refuge’s legal protection early in the new year, attempting to circumvent the normal Senate process by attaching Arctic drilling to the federal budget resolution. Today’s poll found a strong majority of Americans (59 percent v. 25 percent) believe such plans are a "backdoor maneuver that has nothing to do with the budget."

Conservation groups pointed to the new poll results as evidence of continued political support for protecting the Arctic Refuge, and reaffirmed their commitment to fight the drilling proposal at every turn.

"These poll results show that the American people still aren’t buying the drillers’ line," said Melinda Pierce, who directs the Sierra Club’s Arctic protection campaign. "They know that drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would ruin one of America's last unspoiled wild places for what the U.S. Geological Survey and oil company executives concede is only a few months' worth of oil that would not be available for a decade."

"Congress should take notice of these numbers," said Jim Waltman, Director of Refuges and Wildlife Programs at The Wilderness Society. "Members of Congress need to ask themselves, ‘Whose side am I on? Am I on the side of the oil companies? Or do I side with the majority of Americans who want the Arctic Refuge protected?’"

The poll also found that the overwhelming majority of Americans favor greater investments in improving fuel efficiency and developing clean, renewable sources of energy over drilling for more oil in protected public lands in the U.S.

Q: Which of the following options do you think is the best way to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil?

C. Rely less on oil and gas and expand development of alternative forms of energy like wind, solar, and ethanol 41%
B. Conserve more, waste less, and develop more fuel-efficient cars so we use less oil and gas 39%
A. Drill for more oil and gas in the U.S., including areas within wildlife refuges and other public lands, to increase our domestic energy supply 17%
D. Not sure 4%

"Ultimately, the battle over the Arctic Refuge says a lot about what sort of nation we are going to be," said Larry Schweiger, president of the National Wildlife Federation. "Are we a country that squanders its natural resources for short-term profit? Or are we a nation that stewards those resources, carefully conserving the most valuable natural and economic assets to ensure we will have them for future generations?"

"Protecting the Refuge has been a priority for Republicans and Democrats alike since President Eisenhower set it aside 45 years ago," said Cindy Shogan, executive director of the Alaska Wilderness League. "We have every confidence that a bipartisan coalition will once again protect the Arctic Refuge in the upcoming Congress, backed by millions of Americans who understand that drilling there is the wrong choice."

The narrow Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is the foundation of a delicate ecosystem that features a spectacular diversity of wildlife, including polar bears, musk oxen, wolves, and millions of migratory birds. The area also supports the Porcupine caribou herd, which calves on the Coastal Plain each spring. The caribou are the basis of the subsistence and culture of the Gwich'in people, whose communities lie south of the Brooks Range mountains along the migration route of the herd.


Zogby International conducted interviews of 1,203 likely voters chosen at random nationwide. All calls were made from Zogby International headquarters in Utica, N.Y., from 12/13/04 through 12/15/04. The margin of error is +/- 2.9 percentage points. Slight weights were added to region, party, age, race, religion, and gender to more accurately reflect the voting population. Margins of error are higher in sub-groups. Numbers have been rounded to the nearest percent and might not total 100.


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