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Poll shows public divided by party lines on energy policies

Republicans and Democrats seem to be living on different planets when it comes to how to meet U.S. energy needs.

Republicans overwhelmingly push for more oil drilling. Democrats back conservation and new energy sources such as wind and solar power.

A survey by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows that the polarized positions on energy that have divided Congress and emerged in the presidential campaign also run deep among the public.

While majorities in both parties say energy is an important issue, the poll shows that partisan identification is closely tied to people's perceptions of the causes of the country's energy problems and possible solutions. No other demographic factor -- not race, age, gender or income level -- is as consistently associated with opinions on energy as political party identification.

For example:

*Three of four Democrats surveyed report that a major reason for the county's energy problems is that industry does not do enough to support clean energy. By comparison, 43 percent of the Republicans questioned believe that.

*Three of four Republicans in the poll cite government limits on drilling as a major reason for energy problems, compared with 34 percent of Democrats.

Also, 85 percent say it is a serious problem that the United States needs to buy energy from other countries, but there's disagreement about why. Among Republicans in the poll, 65 percent say the United States does not produce enough domestic energy to meet demand. Yet just over half the Democrats say people use too much energy.

Even on areas where there's majority agreement, a partisan gap remains. For instance, there is broad backing for programs to help consumers learn to make more energy-efficient choices, but the support is 81 percent among Democrats and 57 percent among Republicans.

Paul Bledsoe, a senior adviser with the Bipartisan Policy Center and a former Clinton White House aide, said the results provide an unsettling snapshot of a partisan rift that affects every aspect of policy and politics. He said the big question is whether parties and candidates will acknowledge that they agree on a range of energy solutions and try to make progress, or keep up attacks intended to appeal to their political bases.

By 79 percent to 42 percent, Democrats were nearly twice as likely as Republicans to think the government should be involved in finding solutions to the energy problems. About half of Democrats in the poll think government should be "extremely" involved, compared with just one-quarter of Republicans.

The AP-NORC Center poll was conducted March 29 to April 25. It involved landline and cellphone interviews with 1,008 adults nationwide, and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.