Poll: Ten percent of Americans believe environmentalists intentionally caused oil spill

By John Byrne
Tuesday, May 11, 2010 15:48 EDT
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Fifth of those polled say disaster increases their belief in drilling

Ten percent of Americans believe environmentalists intentionally sabotaged the oil rig Deepwater Horizon off the Gulf Coast according to a poll released Tuesday, apparently as part of a ploy to reduce Americans’ support for offshore drilling.

The surprising finding was contained in a poll released Tuesday by Public Policy Polling. Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh floated the idea on his nationally syndicated talk show.

Polling director Tom Jensen downplayed the finding in a blog post, arguing that the figure was insignificant. He noted, however, that if “undecideds” were included, the number of Americans who are unsure about or believe the environmental sabotage theory rises to more than thirty percent.

“Just 9% of voters say they think environmentalists caused the spill while 22% are unsure and 69% don’t believe they had anything to do with it,” Jensen writes. “Even among GOP voters only 13% are buying into the ‘the environmentalists’ did it frame of mind.”

Also notable in the poll was that almost a fifth of Americans said they were more likely to support offshore drilling after the oil disaster.

“Perhaps most surprisingly 21% of voters said the spill made them more likely to support offshore drilling,” Jensen added. “That includes an even split among GOP voters, 28% of whom said the spill made them more likely to support drilling and 28% of whom said the spill made them less likely to support drilling.”

If environmentalists were really responsible, as Rush Limbaugh asserts, their “ploy” hasn’t succeeded, the poll finds. Fifty five percent of Americans polled after the oil leak still supported offshore drilling. Democrats polled were narrowly opposed.

Americans’ belief in things not seen isn’t new — more than half of Americans polled in a 2008 study said they believed “angels and demons” were active in the world, with 80 percent claiming that miracles do occur.

Seven hundred and seven Americans were surveyed in the Public Policy study, conducted between May 7 and May 9. The poll carries a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 points.

The full poll results are available here.

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