Date:  July 12, 2001
Contact:  Richard Schuldt, director 217/206-6591
Sean O. Hogan, assistant director, 217/206-6591

Illinoisans see energy crisis, favor caps on price of gasoline

            The U.S. is in an "energy crisis" according to 60% of Illinoisans participating in a recent survey conducted by the University of Illinois at Springfield. Nearly half (44%) describe this as a "very serious" national situation and 67% say this is either a "very serious" or "fairly serious" situation here in Illinois. About half (53%) of those surveyed said that the effects of the current national energy situation have placed hardships on their households. As a consequence, 60% said that they would drive less than they otherwise would have during the summer months.  Increases in home heating fuel have created hardships for 53% of those polled, with 40% saying they're experiencing "a lot" of difficulty because of high home energy bills.

            The telephone survey consists of 519 adult participants from randomly selected Illinois households. The Survey Research Office of the Institute for Public Affairs at UIS conducted the survey June 6 through July 7. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

            Energy, the environment, and lifestyles. When Illinoisans are asked whether the environment or energy production should be a priority, a majority (55%) say that the environment should be protected, even at the expense of energy production. A large majority (85%) favors government regulations that would require automobile manufacturers to produce more fuel-efficient cars.

            More specific proposals. Some specific proposals garnered the support of an overwhelming majority of the Illinois public. These included: government regulations that would require auto makers to produce more fuel efficient cars (85%); tax benefits for people who make home improvements to conserve energy (84%); and tax benefits to businesses that make their facilities more fuel efficient (79%). Large majorities also supported government subsidies for development of fuel additives such as ethanol (75%) and government limits on the retail price of a gallon of gasoline (70%). A smaller majority is in favor of requiring businesses to take steps to conserve energy (55%). A small majority favors the government helping oil companies find new sources of energy (52%). At the same time, about as many (50%) are opposed to opening the Alaskan Wildlife Refuge to do so. About one-third (33%) favor exploring the Alaskan wilderness.

      Nuclear power.  The Illinois public is split about equally between those who favor increasing the use of nuclear power to meet current energy demands and those who don't (41% to 39%). About one in five said they do not have an opinion on the use of nuclear energy. A plurality of the respondents (44%) do not know whether Illinois has more, fewer, or about the same number of nuclear power plants as other industrialized states. About 1 in 6 (15%) believe that Illinois has more, 20% said fewer, and 19% said Illinois has about the same number. In fact, the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission reports that Illinois has more than any other state in the Union.

Will California's energy situation affect Illinois?  About one-third(33%) of the Illinoisans surveyed said they expect California's energy problems to have at least some impact on Illinois, but only 6% believe this will be a big impact.  Nearly one-quarter (23%) think the situation in California will not have much impact on Illinois.  Meanwhile, the plurality (36%) are "not sure" how California's energy problems will affect Illinois. At the same time, nearly half (48%) of these Illinois respondents approve of federal intervention in the California energy situation. Nearly four of ten (38%) say this is California's problem to solve.

Race/ethnicity.  Minority respondents are more inclined than white respondents to say that the current energy situation is very serious and to report more disruption in their household finances due to home energy costs. Minority respondents tended to be somewhat more supportive of government regulation in this area than white respondents. Half of the minority respondents oppose increasing the use of nuclear power while a plurality of white respondents favor it.

Partisanship. Democrats, more than Republicans, believe the current energy situation is very serious. At the same time, a substantial majority of Democrats (60%) say that the environment should take precedence over energy production, while Republicans are more split.  A plurality (42%) of Republicans say energy production should have precedence and 37% choose the environment. Not surprisingly, Democrats are more supportive of government regulation in this area than are Republicans. A slight majority (52%) of Republicans support increased use of nuclear power while a plurality of Democrats (43%) believe it is too dangerous and one-third (34%) of Democrats support its increased use. While half of Republicans favor drilling in the Alaskan Wildlife Refuge, 60% of Democrats are opposed. In all cases, the views of political Independents are closer to the views of Democrats than they are to Republicans. 

By region of state.  The biggest regional differences within the state relate to reports of hardships due to the energy situation. A majority of Chicago suburban residents (58%) said they have not experienced hardships due to prices in home energy costs. Meanwhile, majorities in Chicago (57%) and downstate (57%) said they have. A majority of suburban residents (53%) also said they have experienced no hardships due to auto fuel prices, but a majority of downstate residents (58%) reported they had. Chicago residents were split about equally between those who reported hardships and those who did not. Additional data from the Energy Survey are available at the Survey Research Office's website at  <>