May 5, 2020
An oil bailout remains unpopular with U.S. voters despite weeks of nonstop pain for the industry, according to a new poll.
Morning Consult's latest tracking poll found that 38% of the roughly 2,000 voters it contacted were in support of an oil and gas bailout.
Those results, collected in surveys last week, showed that public sentiment hadn't budged from late March and early April, when the same pollster also found 38% support for a bailout.
Opposition to an oil bailout also remained static at 43% of registered voters, and 19% had no opinion, according to the nationwide tracking polls. The polls had a margin of error of 2 percentage points.
Clean energy fared better. A majority of voters backed bailouts for renewable energy, with 56% of voters in support and 24% opposed.
Trump voters were more likely to support an oil bailout (50%), though a plurality also supported a renewable bailout (45%).
Oil allies responded to the poll by urging flexibility. Industry aid doesn't have to look like a bailout, they said.
"This is further evidence that tax cuts for energy extracted on federal lands might be more favorably viewed than direct spending/bailouts," Paul Blair, director of strategic initiatives at Americans for Tax Reform, wrote on Twitter.
"Cut the royalty rate!" he said.
The oil industry suffered historic blows in the time between the two polls. Amid a price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia, President Trump helped negotiate an agreement for oil-producing nations to cut output. But it wasn't enough to counteract a sharp decline made worse by the coronavirus pandemic.
Storage tanks are filled near capacity, and one benchmark showed negative prices for the first time ever.
The Federal Reserve last week expanded a loan program to include struggling oil and gas firms. Environmentalists blasted that move as a quiet bailout, but industry officials said it wasn't that simple.
Steve Everley, a managing director at FTI Consulting who works with the oil and gas sector, responded to the Morning Consult poll by pointing to one of its other findings: More Americans say low oil prices hurt the economy (52%) than say it's helped their personal finances (42%).
Everley added that he would be curious what voters consider to be a bailout.
Extending tax credits and offering Treasury loans with interest aren't the same as direct cash payments, he said.
"Many of these are not bailouts, or at least should not be considered bailouts. But do voters see the nuance?" he wrote on Twitter.
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