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GQR Report: Voters Want to End Big Oil Subsidies

by Drew Lieberman and Andrew Baumann, Senior Associates Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research

With gas prices hovering around $4 a gallon, the big oil companies and their Republican defenders in Congress have reason to be nervous. As big oil fights to cling to the nearly $5 billion in taxpayer-funded subsidies they receive each year, the American electorate has had enough. Our recent survey (see note 1) shows that American voters:

Lay the blame for high gas prices squarely at the feet of Big Oil. A 52 percent outright majority say the oil companies are most to blame for the recent increase in gas prices, a finding confirmed by a recent CNN/Opinion Research survey (see note 2) that shows 61 percent of American adults say the oil companies deserve a great deal of blame for the recent increase in gas prices, the highest percentage of any entity tested.

Strongly support ending oil company subsidies. The CNN/Opinion Research poll shows 77 percent believe the oil companies as a whole are making too much profit, three and half times the 22 percent who say they are making a reasonable profit. By a 73 to 20 percent margin in our survey, voters favor eliminating the $5 billion in subsidies and tax loopholes for oil companies each year, with 57 percent strongly favoring this proposal, the highest level of strong support among any proposal to lower gas prices.

Do not buy the oil companies' defensive claims that ending their tax breaks will cause more hardship at the pump. While Congressional Republicans continue to defend Big Oil, voters reject the premise that ending the subsidies will cause gas prices to go up. Sixty-nine percent believe "we should end the billions in government subsidies for oil companies because we shouldn't use taxpayer money to give handouts to oil companies already making huge profits," while just 22 percent agree with the statement "we should keep tax breaks for oil companies because if we raise taxes on American energy producers that would just cause gas prices to increase further, hurting regular Americans."

Note 1. Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research conducted a national survey of 1,000 likely 2012 voters (833 landline, 167 cell) between March 16 and 20, 2011. The margin of error for the survey (overall) at the 95 percent confidence interval is approximately ± 3.1 percentage points.

Note 2. Interviews with 1,034 adult Americans conducted by telephone by Opinion Research Corporation on April 29-May 1, 2011. The margin of sampling error for results based on the total sample is plus or minus 3 percentage points.