Drill, Baby, Drill ? Public Is Saying No, Baby, No

The first political casualty of the Deepwater Horizon disaster appears to have been the quasi-populist fervor for increased offshore oil drilling:

Just a quarter of Americans back expanding offshore drilling in the wake of the BP oil spill, and most fault federal regulators for the environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.


Before the spill, the Obama administration lifted the moratorium on drilling in U.S. coastal waters as a way to address the country’s energy needs. But most Americans now want fewer offshore wells (31 percent) or the amount kept at current levels (41 percent).

Perhaps as a consequence of the spill, public support for oil and gas drilling in general is also significantly lower than it was a year ago. And as Americans have become increasingly skeptical about such exploration, some elected representatives are now questioning what the government is doing to ensure that offshore exploration can take place safely.


About half of the poll respondents, 49 percent, now see the gulf spill as part of a broader problem with such drilling. Support for drilling in general has slipped from 64 percent last August to 52 percent now.

This massive swing in public opinion is also being mirrored in states directly affected by the spill like Florida, where a recent poll shows a majority of Florida voters opposing offshore oil drilling by a 51% to 42% margin. Before the oil pill, the same poll had Florida voters favoring offshore drilling by a 66% to 27% margin.

None of this should come as a surprise. As the spill became worse and worse by the day in the weeks after April 20th, it was fairly clear that the enthusiasm for offshore drilling, motivated mostly by the at-the-pump cost of gasoline, was not sufficiently deep to survive and environmental disaster of this scope, and that the natural reaction of the public would be to say that we need to take a step back and figure out what went wrong before blindly going off to “Drill, Baby, Drill” with the former Governor of Alaska.

FILED UNDER: Environment, US Politics, , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. PD Shaw says:

    It would be interesting to see a poll of Louisiana voters. I would bet support for drilling is maintained and the oppose the freeze on offshore drilling like their Senator, the Senator from Oil.

  2. Steve Plunk says:

    So about two thirds want more or the same level of oil exploration and production.

    This country has no realistic energy policy in place and the markets reflect that uncertainty of commitment. It doesn’t help when the media switches to gallons instead of barrels when describing the spill in order to show bigger numbers.

  3. An Interested Party says:

    “It doesn’t help when the media switches to gallons instead of barrels when describing the spill in order to show bigger numbers.”

    Oh yes, of course, because the amount that has spilled is just so very tiny…

  4. “It doesn’t help when the media switches to gallons instead of barrels when describing the spill in order to show bigger numbers.”

    And it couldn’t possibly be that most viewers don’t know wtf a barrel is, nor how big it is, but know very well just how much a gallon is.

    i think that’s one of the most ridiculous comments I’ve read outside of Zels/GA/floyd ramblings.

  5. tfr says:

    It’s sort of like comparing airplanes and automobiles: If your car stops working, you pull over, if an airplane stops working, it falls out of the sky. Likewise, if an oil rig blows up in Saudi Arabia, some sand gets oily, if an offshore rig blows up, it pollutes cubic miles of ocean. Given that what, 50-75%? of the world’s oil sits under Saudi Arabia, maybe it’s not worth it? I guess the oil industry will be deciding shortly…