To Win, Republican Candidates Must be Strong on Energy

Published June 20, 2015

New polling emphasizes support for traditional energy concerns has become a partisan issue. Large majorities of Republicans favor key energy issues—but voters of every ideological stripe say energy will be an important part of their voting decisions.

Hickman Analytics Inc., for the Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA), has done polling on energy issues in several key states: IowaNew HampshireNorth CarolinaSouth CarolinaVirginia, and West Virginia. While the questions asked are not identical in each state, the responses are so similar that assumptions can be made.

For the 2016 presidential candidates, lessons should be learned—to win, Republican candidates must be strong on energy.

In all states polled, the majority of respondents indicated that energy issues will be at or near the top when asked: “Looking ahead, how important are energy issues in terms of how you will vote in the Presidential election next year?” In each state, except West Virginia, 80 percent or more answered: “very important” or “somewhat important.” In West Virginia, while still a majority, the percentage is 54—though a smaller percentage of West Virginians, 10 percent, claim energy issues will be: “not very important” or “not important at all.”

The polling took place in Iowa and New Hampshire in April, South Carolina in May, and in Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina in June.

In Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, Hickman asked how they feel about “allowing offshore oil and natural gas drilling north of Alaska, in U.S. waters inside the Arctic Circle.” Overall, a majority of registered voters support it, but opposition is higher among Democrats.

The numbers on Arctic drilling break out this way:



New Hampshire

South Carolina


74% support, 10% oppose

70% support, 18% oppose

76% support, 16% oppose


48% support, 38% oppose

54% support, 35% oppose

60% support, 32% oppose


34% support, 49% oppose

34% support, 54% oppose

51% support, 29% oppose

In Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina, Hickman asked about the Atlantic Coast pipeline project—a 550-mile pipeline that will bring natural gas from West Virginia through Virginia and North Carolina—and found that support is strong and extends across almost every group. As with Arctic drilling, Hickman found that support for this important energy infrastructure project is stronger among Republicans, but even among those who self-identify as liberal, more support than oppose it.

The numbers on the Atlantic Coast pipeline project break out this way:



West Virginia

North Carolina


74% support, 12% oppose

79% support, 12% oppose

76% support, 9% oppose


54% support, 24% oppose

66% support, 25% oppose

56% support, 25% oppose


43% support, 38% oppose

67% support, 20% oppose

41% support, 37% oppose

When asked why they support the Atlantic Coast pipeline project, “jobs” was mentioned most frequently with “a positive impact on the economy” being next. “Contribution to energy independence” was also mentioned.

Presidential candidates can learn from the Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina numbers and a similar response could be assumed in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina—though they were not asked a parallel question on Arctic drilling.

The lesson? Republican and Independent voters understand that energy projects create jobs, help the economy and energy security.

In Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina, Hickman asked about other energy issues, such as coal-fueled power plants, Keystone pipeline, offshore drilling, and hydraulic fracturing. Again, support among Republicans and Independents—even many Democrats—is strong on a wide range of energy issues.

“As the primary season approaches, presidential candidates will need to take a strong stance on energy issues for the 2016 election,” CEA President David Holt said. “As we have seen in the past, the success of candidates in 2016 will hinge on their ability to promote issues that foster economic and job growth.”

Energy provides Republican candidates with an opportunity to stand with voters and offer contrast to Hillary Clinton—whose previous speeches indicate that she will continue President Obama’s energy policies. At her Roosevelt Rally, she repeated one of Obama’s reoccurring themes: “climate change, one of the defining threats of our time.”

As the Hickman/CEA polling shows, the frequently touted fixes for climate change—opposing coal-fueled power plants and blocking fossil-fuel development and infrastructure—are in direct conflict with what most Americans, especially Republicans and Independents, want.

The Hickman/CEA conclusions are supported by previous polls.

Earlier this year, Pew Research Center did its annual Public Policy Priorities Survey. “Dealing with global warming” remained a low priority—with only “Dealing with global trade issues” being lower. However, when looking at the issues to discern the partisan differences, the message is obvious. A slight majority of Democrats, 54 percent, view global warming as a top priority, compared to 15 percent of Republicans (an 8 point drop from 2007) and 39 percent of Independents (a 1 point drop from 2007).

Similarly, a March 2015 Gallup poll found that “Americans worry least about global warming.” Again the partisan divide is telling: in 2000, 29 percent of Republicans/Republican leaners worried about “global warming or climate change”; in 2015, 13 percent—a 16 percent drop. For Democrats/Democrat leaners: 2000, 48 percent; in 2015, 52 percent—a 4-point increase.

As we head into the important 2016 election, it is imperative that whoever becomes the 45th president understands energy. Gratefully, as the Hickman/CEA polling indicates, the American public understands the importance of energy and is prepared to vote accordingly.