Correction at bottom.
WASHINGTON — Asked to choose between lower gasoline prices and reduced greenhouse-gas emissions from gasoline, 66 percent of Americans in a new online survey chose lower gas prices and the rest said that reducing the emissions that cause climate change was more important.
The survey also found that 56 percent of Americans think that the federal government should stop subsidizing ethanol production because they're afraid that it boosts food prices, while the rest said that the subsidies should continue. When they were asked to choose between government subsidies for food crops or for ethanol, 82 percent chose food and the rest chose ethanol.
However, when the respondents were asked whether energy independence or lower food prices were more important, 55 percent said energy independence and the remainder said lower food prices.
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About 90 percent of U.S. ethanol is made from corn, according to the Department of Energy. Government and private industries have been researching ways to use nonfood plants instead by breaking down cellulose, the structural part of plants' leaves, stalks and husks. The potential advantages of cellulosic ethanol are lower greenhouse-gas emissions and less competition for agricultural land.
The nonpartisan polling group Ipsos conducted the online survey May 19-25 from a national sample of 1,266 people ages 18 and older. The sample was weighted to reflect the composition of the national population. It wasn't a scientific random sample, however, but the equivalent of a large focus group.
The survey also found that 57 percent of those surveyed said that demand rather than government subsidies should drive ethanol production, while 6 percent disagreed and 37 percent said they neither agreed nor disagreed. About half of those sampled, 51 percent, said that the industry should focus more on producing ethanol from nonfood crops, while 4 percent disagreed and 45 percent neither agreed nor disagreed.
Asked whether ethanol is the most promising way to create U.S. energy independence, 25 percent agreed, 30 percent disagreed and 45 percent said they neither agreed nor disagreed.
Because this was an online poll, it has no statistical margin of error. It was based on samples drawn from opt-in online panels. The sample was weighted to reflect the makeup of the population, but it wasn't a random sample that mirrors the population within a statistical probability ratio.
CORRECTION: A story l about an Ipsos-McClatchy poll on Americans' attitudes toward ethanol production contained an incomplete and misleading explanation of the poll's methodology. Here's the correct explanation:
These are some of the findings of an Ipsos-McClatchy poll conducted May 19-25. For this survey, a national sample of 1,266 people 18 and older from Ipsos' U.S. online panel were interviewed online. Weighting then was employed to balance demographics and ensure that the sample's composition reflects that of the U.S. adult population according to Census data and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe.
A survey with an unweighted probability sample of this size and a 100 percent response rate would have an estimated margin of error of 2.75 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, of what the results would've been had the entire adult population of the United States been polled. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including coverage error and measurement error.
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