Poll: Support for wider drilling drops but majority still in favor

In August of 2008, when oil and gasoline prices were coming off record highs, 62 percent supported expanded offshore drilling.

The Quinnipiac survey is one of several recent polls that show a drop in public support for wider drilling.

The Obama administration in late March rolled out plans to expand drilling in coming years.

But the Gulf of Mexico spill has subsequently scrambled offshore drilling politics and policy alike, and the White House has imposed a moratorium on new deepwater drilling permits for at least the next six months while it explores new safeguards.

Elsewhere, the poll finds that 44 percent of respondents say the spill makes them less likely to support drilling in currently protected areas, while 49 percent say it does not.

The responses broke sharply on partisan lines — 25 percent of Republican voters are now less likely to back wider drilling, while among Democrats the figure is 54 percent.

Overall, 39 percent of voters approve of Obama’s handling of the spill, while 42 percent disapprove in the poll, which has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 2.2 percentage points.

Just 23 percent of Republicans approve of Obama’s handling of the spill, while among Democrats the figure is 55 percent.

“Given that Democrats are generally preferred on issues like the environment, these numbers are a warning sign to the White House that the oil spill could become a political problem,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.