WASHINGTON High gasoline prices have dramatically changed Americans' views on energy and the environment, with more people now viewing oil drilling and new power plants as a greater priority than energy conservation than they did five months ago, according to a new survey.
The poll released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center shows nearly half of those surveyed or 47 percent now rate energy exploration, drilling and building new power plants as the top priority, compared with 35 percent who believed that five months ago.
The Pew poll, conducted in late June, showed the number of people who consider energy conservation as more important declined by 10 percentage points since February from a clear majority to 45 percent. People are now about evenly split on which is more important.
The number of people who said they considered increasing energy supplies more important than protecting the environment increased from 54 percent in February to 60 percent, and the number of people who favor oil drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge also increased.
"This shows the real impact of higher gas prices on the public," said Carroll Doherty, associate director for the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, which commissioned the telephone survey of 2,004 adults from June 18 to June 29. The margin of error was plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, slightly larger for subgroups.
Since February, gasoline prices have soared from just over $3 to a national average of $4.08 a gallon, according to the Energy Department.
The survey comes as Congress is in the midst of a bitter debate over how to respond to the country's energy problems and as the two major presidential candidates also are sharply divided on energy priorities.