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How Quickly They Forget: Support for Offshore Drilling Increases in Key States

The news cycles can be measured in milliseconds these days, therefore this result is not surprising:

In Louisiana, despite being at the heart of the spill, voters never showed much ambivalence about drilling. When we polled there in June 77% of voters supported it with 12% opposed for a net +65. Still that margin has widened even further now to +73 with 82% of voters favoring it and 9% against.

In Florida and North Carolina though voters had turned against offshore drilling by the middle of July. Last month we found 51% in Florida opposed to 39% in support and in North Carolina we found 46% opposed and 42% in support. Now we find voters in both states back in support of drilling- 48% for to 44% against in Florida and 50% for to 39% against in North Carolina.

Support in North Carolina, at least, still comes up short of pre-spill levels. But there is support, nonetheless, mere months after the largest spill in US history, with 4 million barrels of oil cascading into the Gulf of Mexico.

Seemingly, we don’t have incidents that cause massive shifts in public opinion anymore. The Arizona immigration law didn’t radically change anyone’s position on immigration. The BP incident didn’t do much to move the needle on offshore drilling. We live in a very polarized era, and new information struggles to pierce the bubble. Not to mention the fact that concerted organizing on a level that would actually change opinion didn’t happen, at least in the case of drilling. I haven’t seen much from the environmental movement over things like this:

A survivor of the Deepwater Horizon disaster testified at a federal hearing Tuesday that his company gave financial bonuses to workers based in part on how quickly they made equipment repairs to an oil rig.

The testimony from Daun Winslow, a performance division manager for Transocean, the rig’s owner, furthered concerns that financial pressure might have trumped safety on the rig.

There’s been virtually no effort to make a larger argument about industry failure that heightens the dangers of offshore drilling, not to mention the ludicrousness of the argument that expanded offshore drilling would affect gas prices when recent events have shown that to be ridiculous.

And so, when the cameras turn away from the Gulf, and the oil gets suppressed under the surface, the public forgets. We live in a culture of forgetting.

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David Dayen

David Dayen