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Solyndra Has No Impact on US Public Support for Solar

The media feeding frenzy over government support for now-bankrupt Solyndra has had no apparent impact on public impressions of solar energy or even of government support for solar, says a new poll from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and Hart Research.

“Despite a news environment that has not always been friendly, it has not inflicted any real drop in solar energy’s measure of public support,” said Hart senior analyst Molly O’Rourke in an online conference to announce the findings.  “We got an array of very favorable findings, broad support and breadth of constituency.” 

Of 1,206 “likely” voters surveyed online nationwide between September 4 and 9, 92% said it was very or somewhat important for the U.S. to develop and use solar.  The percentage was 93% among the survey’s swing voters, which constituted its majority (762) and were defined as “ticket-splitters or who vote for candidates of either party.” 

Solar energy rated favorable by large majorities, regardless of political affiliation, with 94% of Democrats, 89% of independents and 75% of Republicans in support of it.

“On the eve of the first presidential debate, public support for solar energy has never been stronger. Nine out of 10 Americans surveyed feel the US should develop and use more solar power,” said Rhone Resch, SEIA president and CEO, in an online conference to announce the findings. “We were joking in the office that we couldn’t think of anything that had more support, and we looked—baseball, apple pie and chocolate—but nothing was more popular!” he quipped.

Furthermore, O’Rourke said, unlike other sectors with favorable public ratings, approval of solar translates into a feeling that government should do more to encourage its growth, with 7 in 10 of all voters surveyed saying so.  Slightly more swing voters, 72%, think government should do more as well.  Even 50% of Republicans agreed. 

Specifically, survey respondents, by a margin of 4 to 1, said they want the government to support solar with tax credits and other financial incentives.  “What is so impressive is that a majority of Democrats, Republicans and independents all agree on this issue as a being a specific role for government,” O’Rourke said.  The breakdown was 91% of Democrats, 78% of independents and 63% of Republicans.

The only negative points survey respondents raised about solar energy were high cost and practicality.  “The strengths and advantages of solar far outweighed the concerns for voters,” O’Rourke said.  Resch noted that consumer public opinion is likely lagging a bit behind the market reality, as the cost of installing solar came down 33% in the second quarter.  Large commercial users of solar, such as Walmart, for example, he said, are convinced.  “Walmart is number one, with 65 MW installed, and intends to install solar in many more locations,” he said.

Of the 1200 respondents, 42% identified themselves as Democrats, 37% as Republicans and 21% as independents with no party affiliation. 

Lead image: Views of people in a group via Shutterstock.

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Marsha W. Johnston is a freelance writer based in the DC area, specializing in all areas of sustainable development, from renewable energy to agriculture and wildlife conservation.

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