Politics & Government

New poll: Opinion shifting in favor of offshore drilling

WASHINGTON — With gas prices hovering at $4 a gallon, a majority of Floridians now support drilling for oil in protected areas offshore, according to a new poll.

The survey finds support for drilling at 60 percent, with 10 percent of respondents telling pollsters that they'd opposed offshore drilling in the past. Thirty-six percent of respondents said they remain opposed to offshore drilling.

The poll of 1,248 likely Florida voters was conducted July 23-29 by Quinnipiac University and has a margin of error of 2.8 percentage points.

The same poll also shows John McCain narrowing Barack Obama's advantage in the state. Obama has a 46 percent lead to McCain's 44 percent, compared to a 47 to 43 percent lead for Obama in June.

Pollsters suggest the numbers point to opportunity for McCain, who backs offshore oil exploration. Obama has opposed it.

"Those who said Senator McCain was throwing away Florida's electoral votes by advocating more offshore drilling might want to think again,'' said Peter Brown, assistant director of the school's polling institute. He noted that despite President Bush's "historically low'' poll numbers, Floridians back his call for more drilling.

The numbers show a stark partisan divide: Eighty-six percent of Republicans polled back offshore drilling, while only 38 percent of Democrats surveyed are in favor.

The university also polled in the key swing states of Ohio and Pennsylvania and found likely voters in all three states more concerned about energy than the war in Iraq.

By margins of 27 to 30 percentage points, voters in each state said Congress should side with President Bush and allow for offshore oil drilling. But the poll found that voters say Obama has the best energy plan. "Whether that's because they don't know the specifics of each man's plan or just don't think drilling is important enough to swing their votes is the great unknown,'' Brown said.