Poll: Americans Overwhelmingly Support Alternative Energy

Expansion of solar energy topped the list of energy sources Americans want the nation to pursue.

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A new poll finds solar power is America's preferred alternative energy.

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Despite the nation's newfound abundance of fossil fuels thanks to the so-called "Shale Gale," Americans still overwhelmingly support more development of alternative energy, according to a new poll.

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Three-in-four Americans want the United States to pursue more solar energy according to Gallup and another 71 percent favor further development of wind power. Far fewer prioritized the expansion of oil production (46 percent) and nuclear expansion (37 percent), and less than one-third of respondents supported ramping up coal production.

The survey found Americans' opinion on the nation's energy options varied by political affiliation, with Democrats and independents championing solar power, while natural gas was the top choice for Republicans. Almost 90 percent of Democrats and nearly 75 percent of independents polled supported more solar power, compared to 68 percent among Republicans. More than two-thirds of Republicans supported more development of the nation's natural gas resources, compared to just 62 percent among independents and 59 percent of Democrats.

[PHOTOS: Florida's Next Generation Solar Energy Center]

Responses varied by geographic region as well. Those living in the South tend to support more traditional energy sources, such as oil and coal, than those living in other regions of the country.

Nevertheless, more investment in solar was the top priority overall, regardless of where respondents lived and Americans "overall and across political and socioeconomic groups generally are most likely to call for more emphasis on solar and wind power," the Gallup survey noted. But alternative energy sources are still in their infancy in terms of technology and affordability according to Gallup, which means they have a long way to go before achieving more significant contributions to U.S. domestic energy production.

[READ: Solar in the Spotlight]

In the meantime, that leaves natural gas, which is cleaner than coal and cheaper than many other energy sources. Almost 60 percent of Democrats support greater gas development, along with 62 percent of independents and almost 80 percent of Republicans. While advances in technology – including horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing – have allowed developers to tap into previously inaccessible stores of shale oil and gas, controversy over the environmental impacts of extraction and use of these fossil fuels could present a serious roadblock for further development.

"Questions remain about the safety of 'fracking technology' – meaning public support may not be enough to increase the U.S. emphasis on this energy source," the report noted.

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