Our friends over at the Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA) are out today with a new poll commissioned by SEIA and Schott Solar and performed by independent polling firm Kelton Research. Not surprisingly for those of us who regularly talk to the public about solar – but something largely missing from most press accounts – is the overwhelming public support for solar. Indeed, the poll found that 9 out of 10 Americans (89%) understand that it is important for the United States to develop and use solar energy. More significantly, that support cuts across the political spectrum with support from 80% of self-identified Republicans, 90% from Independents and 94% from Democrats.
Apart from a free lunch, it is hard to imagine anything with greater popular support.
One of the more interesting findings in the report was how knowing that a product was made using solar power would increase the likelihood of a consumer purchasing that product:
This result begs the question: Who makes up that 7% who would be less likely to buy a product if they knew it were made using solar?
“No thank you, I prefer to only support products that are actively polluting the environment!”
Here are the main questions and results from the poll:
Question 1: If you were in charge of U.S. energy policy and could choose to provide financial support in one of the following energy sources during your term in office, which would you choose?
- Thirty-nine percent chose solar, compared to 21 percent for natural gas, 12 percent for wind, 9 percent for nuclear and 3 percent for coal. Among Independents, solar is more than twice as popular as any other energy source (43 percent to 20 percent for natural gas).
Question 2: How important do you think it is for the U.S. to develop and use solar power?
- Nine out of 10 Americans (89 percent) think it is “extremely important” or “somewhat important.”
- Eighty percent of Republicans, 90 percent of Independents, and 94 percent of Democrats agree with this statement.
Question 3: How important do you think it is for the federal government to support U.S. solar manufacturing right now?
- Eight out of 10 Americans (82 percent) think it is “extremely important” or “somewhat important.”
- A majority of Independent voters (51 percent) think it is “extremely important.”
Question 4: Would you be more, less or about as likely to buy a product that you knew was made using solar energy?>
- A majority of Americans (51 percent) would be more likely to buy products produced with solar energy.
- Sixty-one percent of consumers in the key age demographic of 18 to 44 years old would be more likely.
Question 5: Which of the following best describes the biggest concern you would have with choosing solar energy?
- Cost was the most common concern (48 percent), followed by reliability (25 percent), uncertainty about the benefits (9 percent) and aesthetics (3 percent).
Question 6: The federal government currently gives subsidies, such as federal tax credits and grants, to traditional sources of energy, such as oil, natural gas and coal. How likely would you be to support similar subsidies for solar energy?
- More than eight out of 10 Americans (82 percent) would be “extremely likely” or “somewhat likely” to support federal investments in solar. Seventy-two percent of Republicans support federal investments, as well as 87 percent of Democrats and 82 percent of Independents.
Couple of final thoughts: First, it is encouraging to see that younger people show greater support for solar than do their elders. Solar needs to be a big part of the future and those who will inhabit that future get it. Second, cost is still the major concern for most potential solar clients. Yet the cost of solar has dropped dramatically in the past several years – a key fact about solar that rarely makes it into print.
It will be interesting to see how much press this poll gets – given the steady pummeling by the media the industry has taken since Solyndra failed, a little equal time to report on how the majority of Americans view the solar industry might just be, dare we say it, “fair and balanced”?