A new opinion poll is providing fresh evidence that American voters continue to support offshore drilling for domestic oil and natural gas. The poll, conducted by Harris Interactive and commissioned by the American Petroleum Institute (API), found that 61 percent of Americans who voted in the 2008 presidential election favor offshore energy development, while only 26 percent are opposed. Several recent opinion polls found that more than two-thirds of Americans support greater access to the nation’s vast natural gas and oil resources.

The new poll also found that 57 percent of the respondents would oppose plans to delay or block domestic oil and natural gas production, and 50 percent would oppose delaying the offshore oil and gas drilling plan, referring to the recent action by the Obama administration to extend the comment period by six months on the Minerals Management Service’s offshore leasing plan for 2010-2015. As API President Jack Gerard explained, Americans continue to say that they want access to the oil and natural gas that lie in the Outer Continental Shelf. “Americans need this energy now and will need it to power an economic recovery in the future,” Gerard said.

A recent study conducted by ICF International and commissioned by API showed that allowing energy exploration and production in the areas that had been off-limits to development could create thousands of new jobs, generate more than $1.7 trillion in government revenue, and significantly increase the nation’s energy security by boosting domestic energy production.

Of the American voters who responded to the new survey, 37 percent identified themselves as Democrats, 33 percent as independents, and 23 percent as Republicans, indicating that support for offshore development crosses party lines.

“[Americans] understand these resources can be safely developed and will fuel economic growth, create jobs, generate plentiful tax revenues, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. We should not delay the development of these vital natural resources,” Gerard said.

More information about the study is available here.