CHARLESTON – A survey of registered voters in West Virginia found that the natural gas industry has a higher favorability rating than the coal industry.
The survey done late last year by the Cardinal Institute for West Virginia Policy found 74 percent of West Virginians rate natural gas favorably while only 67 percent rate coal favorably. The survey was part of a broader survey series the institute does titled "State of the Mountain State."
"We wanted to check out a wide cross-section of views across West Virginia on various public policy issues and economic issues," Garrett Ballengee, executive director of the Cardinal Institute, said in an interview with The West Virginia Record. "It seemed to us there was a lot of political polling and candidate surveys and things like that, but we wanted to see what West Virginians' views were on K-12 education, the economy, tax laws and the energy industry."
Garrett Ballengee | from Cardinal Institute website
Ballengee said when asked if West Virginians had a favorable opinion of the natural gas industry, renewable energy or the coal industry, renewable scored the highest followed by natural gas and then coal.
"Renewable scored the highest at 79 percent favorable," Ballengee said. "Right under that was natural gas at 74 percent, which was ahead of coal, which was at 67 percent. We were surprised, given the state's rich history with coal."
Ballengee said the survey also asked which industries West Virginians expect will provide the most jobs over the next five to 10 years.
"Number one was natural gas," Ballengee said. "It beat out things like manufacturing, the coal industry and tourism."
Ballengee said the institute hopes to do the survey on an annual basis.
"The survey was extremely broad and it had over 30 questions," Ballengee said. "It was sent out to something like 405 registered likely voters that mirrored the state's political registration."
The survey was sent out to 42 percent Democrat, 33 percent Republican and 25 percent Independent registered voters.
"We didn't want to skew one way or the other," Ballengee said. "We got a lot of positive feedback on this from all over the state. We'd loved to see how this evolves over time."
The survey also found that nuclear energy had a 44 percent favorable rating with West Virginians and that 50 percent of West Virginians support the construction of nuclear power plans in West Virginia.
Sixty-three percent of West Virginians believe the free market should determine the cost of energy, such as coal and natural gas, according to the survey.
The survey was sponsored by Cardinal Institute and was conducted by MBE LLC in September.