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Report shows Americans trust US federal agencies over White House on energy issues

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World Pipelines,

Americans across the political spectrum believe that US federal agencies are the most credible source for energy information, more so than the news media and significantly more trustworthy than the White House or Congress. This finding was one of the insights from a new national survey and corresponding report by Makovsky, one of the nation’s leading integrated communications consultancies.

The report, Trust, Credibility and America’s Energy Future, offers an instructive look into what US consumers think about energy issues in the end of a tumultuous year, which saw the Trump Administration take over national energy policy, the US withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accords, the repeal of the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan and ongoing energy issues surrounding hydraulic fracking and the Keystone pipeline.

On the credibility issue, respondents were given a variety of choices, and US government agencies and TV news channels and/or their websites were seen as the most credible information sources (22% and 20%, respectively) while the White House came in at 13% and Congress at 8%.

Millennials gave the highest credibility scores to federal agencies and TV news channels (33% and 24%, respectively). In fact, Millennials appear to be more trusting of information sources in general, giving notably higher credibility scores compared to other generations surveyed.

Despite social media ranking among the top information sources, it was considered the least credible of the sources listed (7%). High use combined with low credibility may be driven by the passive nature of social media, as opposed to consumers actively seeking it out.

When asked if the US is on the “right path towards energy independence,” 65% said it was, compared to 43% who disagreed. When broken down by political affiliation, 80% of Republicans agreed, compared to 43% of Democrats and 38% of Independents. A majority of respondents (61%) also agreed that domestic energy sources should be prioritised over foreign energy solutions.

Opinions are almost evenly split among Americans on whether market forces or the government should determine the best energy source for America. Slightly more than half (55%) say market forces should be responsible, whereas slightly less than half (45%) believe government should make the decision. Republicans (58%), ages 45 - 54 (62%), ages 55 - 64 (66%), incomes of US$75 000 - 100 000 (62%) and over US$100 000 (61%) are most likely to support market forces, whereas Democrats (53%), age 18 - 34 (54%), incomes less than US$35 000 (53%) lean toward government.

“These new results illustrate that Americans want reliable sources of information about energy issues, and the uncertainty of the past year has led them to put the most faith in federal agency policy makers and the news media,” said Andy Beck, Executive Vice President of Energy, Manufacturing and Sustainability at Makovsky.

Americans also view energy company communications with skepticism and distrust. When asked to identify the most informative energy company communications method, the top response (36%) was “none of the above” followed by websites (29%), Facebook (15%) and advertisements (7%).

In a continuation of last year’s survey findings, Americans also continue to considerably overestimate renewable energy’s role in the US’s overall energy use; base their energy decisions on societal impacts; have the most trust in the solar industry; and get a majority of their energy information from television news.

The survey of over 1000 adults from across the US, representing varied political viewpoints, a wide range of age groups and diverse income levels, shows the following.

  • Americans continue to overestimate the contribution of renewable energy in powering the US and underestimate the role of coal, oil and natural gas now and in the future. In 2017, solar and wind together made up just 3% of US energy consumption, while survey respondents put the figure at 21%. Furthermore, respondents predict that wind and solar will make up 32% of energy consumption in five years; however, industry experts predict that renewable sources will produce less than 5% of U.S. energy consumption. Conversely, respondents perceived fossil fuels to be a much lower percentage of the energy mix than they are today and projected them to be even less in five years.
  • Americans actively seek and pay attention to news related to the energy industry on a wide range of topics. More than half of those surveyed (60%) report getting information or hearing about energy issues a few times a month.
  • 27% of Americans consider the solar industry most trustworthy – utilities rank second (24%) and the natural gas industry is a close third (23%.) The coal industry ranks last at 2%.

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