When President Obama announced recently that he'd open new coastal areas to offshore drilling, there was considerable speculation as to what the political fallout might be. Most progressive pundits were baffled by the decision, and the general consensus seemed to be that it was a political move designed to influence key decision makers. The immediate reaction from the right was apoplectic, with Republican leaders like John Boehner taking great offense. Senator Murkowski, whose vote some Democrats consider possible on climate legislation, is exactly the type of oil/gas friendly legislator this move was likely intended to influence. Within days of the decision, though, she went out of her way to make it clear that she was not impressed.
Sometimes in situations like this it makes sense to work backwards, by determining which segments of the American population a political decision actually appeals to. To that end, I took a look at the latest Economist/YouGov poll, which provided considerable data on who exactly among the American populace favors offshore drilling. Several folks have already taken a look at various aspects of this poll, but as far as I know no one has taken a close look at the offshore drilling data.
As you can see, the decision to increase offshore drilling for oil and gas is most popular among Republicans, people who are 65 and older, whites and males. It is least popular among Democrats, people under 30, Latinos, African Americans and females. Aside from political identification, this decision seems to appeal most to a similar demographic to that of the current United States Senate. Consider the Demographics of the Senate:
-- 83% male
-- 97% white
-- About 50% over the age of 65 and 90% over the age of 55
Now, I'd be remiss if I didn't point out the obvious here. The segment of the American population that truly stands to benefit from Obama's foolish decision on offshore drilling is quite small: a handful of multinational oil and gas companies. These companies are among the most profitable in the world, and they spend hundreds of millions of dollars annually lobbying in order to hold policymakers hostage. Judging by Obama's decision on offshore drilling, they seem to be getting their money's worth.