Polling is becoming more difficult and less reliable, for a simple reason that most pollsters will admit, at least privately. Namely, people lie to pollsters.
Most people are reluctant to divulge biases that they think are out of touch with mainstream thinking. In this age of political correctness and cancel culture, who can blame them? Still, it raises an interesting question about whether Americans believe what they say they believe.
A decade ago, Matt Spalding wrote a great book called “We Still Hold These Truths,” in which he argued that America’s essential founding principles are so embedded in the public DNA that people would instinctively fight to defend their freedom, however uneducated they may have become about history and civics. Indeed, Americans overwhelmingly tell pollsters they believe in limited government, low taxes, reduced spending and decreased regulation.
But after watching voting behavior during the last few elections, critics are moved to ask if people really believe in those principles. Is it just that the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak?
There are numerous examples of voter schizophrenia. In 2018, for example, Coloradans overwhelmingly defeated a measure to severely limit oil and gas drilling to the point of banning drilling almost everywhere in the state. But while rejecting that measure and telling pollsters they supported continued energy development, voters also elected a governor, and a majority of candidates for both houses of the Legislature, who opposed such energy development.
Within weeks of the election, the state Oil and Gas Conservation Commission adopted regulations along the same lines as those just rejected by voters. The new governor and Legislature have pursued anti-energy policies ever since, perhaps gambling on the fact that voters don’t really think what they say they think.
Today, overwhelming majorities say they support increased domestic energy production — partly to guarantee America’s energy independence, but also to help European countries like Ukraine and Poland escape the stranglehold of Russian oil and gas. World politics, and the future of war and peace, would be completely transformed if no nation depended on Russia, Iran or Saudi Arabia for oil. That goal was within sight until voters elected a president who imposed new anti-fossil fuel regulations, drastically curtailing both domestic production and exports.
A recent congressional hearing was titled like a non-fiction best-seller: “Gouged at the Gas Station: Big Oil and America’s Pain at the Pump.” It was a raw attempt by members of Congress to shield themselves from public anger over the surge in pump prices, but it was disingenuous. They pressured oil executives to boost production while still calling for stronger steps to eliminate America’s use of oil!
The Biden administration has ramped up regulatory barriers to production on federal lands, both onshore and offshore. Indeed, one of Joe Biden’s first acts as president was to halt any further oil and gas leases on federal lands. Another was to stop the Keystone Pipeline, which would have moved up to 830,000 barrels of oil a day into American markets, more than offsetting the loss of roughly 672,000 barrels a day the U.S. was importing from Russia before the Ukrainian invasion.
Do you support increased oil and gas drilling?
The war in Eastern Europe has reawakened millions of Americans to the importance of energy independence. The chattering class seems to have discovered, for the first time, that much of Europe depends on Russian oil and gas, and that alternate suppliers, such as the U.S., could change that.
Clearly, the world could be a much safer place if the U.S. and its European allies were energy independent. The new Russian atrocities have heightened public awareness of that geopolitical reality, and many leaders now realize that world peace, not just economics, is inexorably linked to energy.
Voters have generally gone along with the drive toward “green energy” and the global movement against fossil fuels. Their views are changing quickly, though, in the face of skyrocketing gas prices and the resulting inflation of virtually all products. Biden still seems determined to move away from oil and gas, but administrations and policies change quickly if people really want change.
Americans do not need to join the war in Ukraine to turn the tide for freedom in Europe. The U.S. does not even have to supply weapons and risk a direct confrontation with Russia. All America needs to do is reboot its own industry and free its entrepreneurial companies to produce, export and compete.
If our spirit is still willing, we can avoid this and many future wars — without firing a shot.
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