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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Energizer Voter

Air Date: Week of

Mike Bocian is an Associate Vice president at Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research Firm. (Courtesy of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner)

Energy and the environment proved to be issues in election campaigns across the country. Living on Earth talks with Mike Bocian, Associate Vice President of the Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research Firm, to get the post-game rundown on how the environment did in the polls.


CURWOOD: It’s Living on Earth. I’m Steve Curwood.

During election season, people across the country heard many campaign ads with a common theme: energy.

ENERGY ADS: The price of gas is killing my farm. 86 bucks to fill up my pickup. I’m dumping my profit into the fuel tank. For farmers like me, the cost of gas is the difference between getting by and getting left behind. In Colorado the future is building wind farms in wheat fields but in Washington, Congress works for big oil.

CURWOOD: But in exit polls, energy didn’t show up in the top five most important issues on voters’ minds. So, how big a factor was energy and the environment in deciding midterm election winners? We decided to ask that question of Mike Bocian, the Associate Vice President of the Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research Firm.

Mike Bocian is an associate vice president at Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research. (Courtesy of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research)

BOCIAN: It influenced it very significantly. While it may not appear as the number one issue that voters say they talk about and voted on, when you look at the data in the post election surveys you can see that it was very significant. And I’ll point to one piece of data that’s telling. We did a survey immediately after the election, and if you look at those voters who voted for the Democratic candidate but considered voting for the Republican, the number one concern that they had about the republicans is that they did nothing about the oil companies and the high gas prices. The voters learned about and were extremely frustrated that their Congress and their President had given large tax breaks to the oil companies at a time when gas prices were extremely high and the oil companies were making billion dollar profits.

That was one piece. The second piece was the positive side: the investment in alternative energy. And the voters believe that we are decades behind on investing in alternative energy and ending dependence on foreign oil and they haven’t seen the commitment they’re interested in on that issue.

CURWOOD: So, in a way your data is telling us that voters may well be ahead of politicians in linking environmental issues such as energy and alternative energy with core issues such as the war and the economy.

BOCIAN: Very much so. We’ve been seeing this for actually a few years now. Where we do focus groups where we talk to a dozen voters at a time across the country. And for several years now we have heard them talk about renewable energy and wonder why we’ve had the technology for decades why haven’t we set a course towards a renewable energy future. And the voters see this both as important to security and ending our dependence on foreign oil and our reliance on unstable countries, particularly those in the Middle East.

At the same time they naturally see renewable energy as a job creator. At a time when many of our manufacturing jobs have been outsourced they have a can-do spirit, a belief in America’s technological know-how that we can solve problems, that we can solve the renewable energy problem and create good jobs as a result.

CURWOOD: Mike Bocian, tell me of any particular races where you really saw these factors playing around energy and the environment.

BOCIAN: Sure, there were several and I’ll mention some. In the Governor’s race in the state of Iowa where Chet Culver was victorious, both candidates actually tried to use not just ethanol, the traditional energy issue in Iowa but wind power and other forms of renewable energy. And for Chet Culver his positive messaging it was a significant part, the notion of a brighter future for Iowa with good jobs, ending our country’s dependence on foreign oil. We saw it significantly there. We saw it play in a positive way by Governor Randell in Pennsylvania. At a critical time in what ended up being a landslide victory but that was a race that was very close early on. And Governor Randell made the case correctly that he had done significant steps to invest in renewable energy in the state and also to change many of the vehicles in the state’s fleet from regular gas cars to hybrid cars.

CURWOOD: From your polling I gather there’s a lot of concern about the fractiousness in the political process. How important is a spirit of bipartisan cooperation to those voters who are concerned about the environment and energy?

BOCIAN: It’s very important. They recognize that this problem will not be solved in a partisan way, that it will only be solved in a bipartisan way. And I think we saw in President Bush’s speech a few days ago that this is an issue he understands he can work across party lines on. Whether it will be mere rhetoric or actual policy that requires an investment and more reliance on alternative energy, remains to be seen, but it was one of the few issues he talked about in his speech as an area where he can work with Democrats. So I think the bipartisan component is very important.

CURWOOD: Your next set of numbers, what are you working on now, your next project?

BOCIAN: Well, I think a big part of the focus right now on these issues is how do we take elected officials who ran in significant degree on alternative energy and convince them to work across party lines to address this issue. I think that’s what the environmental community will be focused on. And from a research perspective we’re gonna try to investigate what exactly it is they’re looking for when it comes to alternative energy.

CURWOOD: Thank you so much, Mike.

BOCIAN: It’s been a pleasure.

CURWOOD: Mike Bocian is associate vice president of the Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research firm.



Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research


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