Poll: In the Battle Over Energy Policy, Obama Leads

More Americans side with Obama's energy policies

Artists Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello stand near hundreds of glass rods custom made for Solyndra solar panels. The bankrupt solar company Solyndra has become a rallying point for skeptics of the Obama administration's energy policies.
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Obama's alternative-energy focused plan trumps challenger Mitt Romney's more fossil-fuel based approach, a new poll showed Tuesday, adding more fuel to the debate on what has become one of the more contentious issues of the campaign.

Overall, 37 percent of voters surveyed said they preferred Obama's plan, according to the University of Texas Energy Poll, while 28 percent sided with Romney. Another 35 percent weren't sure whose energy policies they preferred or were undecided.

Support from Libertarians and independents swayed the poll in Obama's favor, with 48 percent of Libertarians throwing their hat into Obama's ring versus just 21 percent for Romney. The split among independents was closer: 27 percent sided with Obama's energy policies compared to just 23 percent for Romney.

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The poll drives home the larger message that while jobs and the economy have taken center stage this election cycle, they haven't completely stolen the limelight. Two-thirds of those polled said energy issues were important to them and more than 60 percent supported increased R&D funding for new energy technologies.

Americans also showed increasing support for renewable sources of energy and heightened concern about climate change, issues central to the Democratic platform. But on the flip side, respondents also backed efforts aimed at expanding domestic oil and gas production, a key tenet of Romney's energy plan.

"Support for increased production of domestic energy supplies remains strong, and we're also seeing a lot of interest in the promotion of alternative forms of energy and energy-saving technologies that crosses party lines," Kirshenbaum said in a release.

[POLL: Half of Republicans Believe in Global Warming]

But a different kind of energy savings is also on Americans' minds: prices at the pump. High gasoline prices — largely responsible for the uptick in consumer prices last month — remain a concern for 92 percent of those polled and 63 percent said they were more likely to vote for a candidate who promises to reduce gas prices.

Romney hasn't shied away from bashing Obama over high gasoline prices in the closing weeks of the presidential race, but big policy changes from the administration--such as tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve--aren't likely this close to election day.

For his part, Romney has harped on opening up drilling areas on federal lands, both onshore and offshore, arguing that increasing the supply of oil will lower gas prices. Nevertheless, experts say lawmakers have little to do with the ultimate cost of gas, largely because oil prices are tied to global markets.

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Meg Handley is a reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can reach her at mhandley@usnews.com and follow her on Twitter at @mmhandley.