The Oil on the Political Shore


"More than 50% of voters agree offshore drilling is still safe."

The Gulf spill appears to be capped; estimates of its damage may or may not be more promising than feared. Voters give both the government and BP poor grades for their handling of the spill, and majorities don't believe either has been truthful about it. Clearly, BP's image and U.S. gasoline sales have been hurt. However, that doesn't mean people are opposed to offshore drilling.

From the first to the most recent poll, opinion about BP's handling of the spill has been worse than that of the government. Initially only 19% of Americans believed BP was doing a good or excellent job, while 46% gave BP a poor rating. Now, the combined positives are 17% and the poor percentage is 49%. As for the government, positive ratings were 34% in early May and 27% now; poor ratings were 33% and are now 49%.

In early May, 20% said the spill made them less likely to buy gasoline from BPa number being verified by actual sales losses. The New York Times reported that Price Information Service Chief Oil Analyst said "sales for major BP distributors and retailers tumbled 10%30% early in the crisis, depending on store locations."

Attitudes toward BP and the spill don't appear to have a great impact on how people feel about offshore drilling, even though 54% of voters agreed in late May that offshore drilling will lead to an increase in environmental problems and, in August, 52% said the spill was an environmental disaster with long-term effects. Throughout the spill, our polling has found slightly more than 50% of voters agreeing that offshore drilling is still a safe, reliable and cost-efficient method of producing oil.

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