March 19, 2014

Keystone XL Pipeline Divides Democrats

Proposal Retains 2-to-1 Support among Public

Survey Report

Across Parties, Support for Keystone, But Democrats Are DividedAs the Obama administration deliberates over whether to allow the Keystone XL pipeline to be built, the proposed pipeline continues to draw broad support from the public. Currently, 61% favor building the pipeline while 27% are opposed. These views have changed little over the past year.

As previous surveys on the pipeline proposal have found, there is far more support for constructing the pipeline among Republicans (84% favor) and independents (61%) than among Democrats. About half of Democrats (49%) favor building the pipeline while 38% are opposed.

The new national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted Feb. 27-Mar. 16 among 3,335 adults, provides an opportunity for a detailed look at differences among Democrats on this issue. Opposition to building the pipeline is most widespread among highly educated Democrats, liberals and those with high family incomes.

Moderate, Lower-Income Democrats Favor Keystone; Women SplitWhile Democrats without college degrees support construction by a wide margin (53% to 34%), only about four-in-ten college-graduate Democrats (39%) favor the project and nearly half (47%) oppose it. (Among Democrats in the survey, 28% had a bachelor’s degree or higher.)

There are comparable differences among Democrats across income categories. Democrats with annual family incomes of at least $100,000 are the least likely group to support the pipeline: about half (51%) oppose Keystone and 36% support it. Those with incomes between $50,000 and $100,000 are divided, while there is more support than opposition among those with family incomes of less than $50,000.

As Pew Research polls last year found, moderate and conservative Democrats continue to be far more likely than liberals to favor building the pipeline (56% vs. 40%).

In addition, there is less support for Keystone among Democratic women than men. About as many women oppose (38%) as favor (43%) the pipeline, with 19% offering no opinion. By comparison, a 58% majority of Democratic men favor Keystone and just 37% oppose it.

Republicans also differ over the pipeline, but large majorities across all GOP groups favor its construction, including 94% of Tea Party Republicans and 78% of non-Tea Party Republicans. Greater shares of Republican men than women support Keystone (90% vs. 78%). Unlike Democrats, there are no significant differences by education or income level among Republicans.