Voters Respond to the Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Clean Up Efforts and Long-Term Policy ImpactSeptember 13, 2010
Resurgent Republic sponsored a series of focus groups in five states to assess voter sentiments about the direction of the country. The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and specifically the response from BP and the Obama Administration contributed significantly to the negative outlook held by these Independent and Tea Party voters. When asked to describe the overall response to the oil spill, they described their feelings about both camps with words like “frustration,” “upsetting,” “confusion,” “incompetence,” and “anger."
Some thought BP had purposefully cut corners, compromised safety and were not being truthful. Others thought the oil company was doing everything it could, but was overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problem. Nearly all these voters felt the Federal Government has been slow to respond and could be utilizing more resources to solve the problem. Among Independents, this invited comparisons to the Federal Government’s response to Hurricane Katrina.
Understandably, voters in Arkansas and Florida were more vocal about the oil spill and spoke clearly about how it would affect their local economies and tourism. Their responses were similar to the other groups in grasping for answers to the problem, but they evidenced real fear about the long-term consequences.
Despite this reaction, voters were split about what role offshore drilling should play in the nation’s long-term energy strategy. Some voters approved of a moratorium on offshore drilling in deep water and even questioned whether drilling in shallow water or on land should continue, believing the economic and environmental damage from an accident is too great. Others were willing to impose new safety regulations on offshore drilling in order to keep and create “good paying jobs” and prevent a future accident. These voters also believed that the nation’s dependence on foreign oil would only worsen if we abandoned drilling as part of the nation’s energy strategy.
Many Tea Party voters view Federal regulations as a contributing factor in the spill, saying an abundance of red tape forces companies to drill many miles off the coastline and in deeper waters, compounding the risk and severity of an accident.