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Economy, energy are topics of latest ASU-Southwest Poll

March 05, 2009

Questions examine opinions in Arizona, Nevada, Texas and New Mexico 

Economic forecasts are dismal, yet many Southwesterners in Arizona, Nevada, Texas and New Mexico are optimistic that conditions in the U.S. will improve over the next year, according to the most recent Arizona State University-Southwest Poll. The poll also shows that younger residents are more likely to say the economy will improve in the next year compared with older respondents. Poll results are available online at

The telephone poll, which was conducted by ASU’s Institute for Social Science Research in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, asked more than 800 residents in the four Southwestern states their opinions on several issues, including the economy, jobs, the environment and energy. Some of the questions were also asked in an earlier poll that was released Oct. 30, 2008.

On the subject of the economy, 41 percent of the respondents say economic conditions in this country will be better a year from now, while 34 percent say they will be the same, and 23 percent say they will be worse. Two percent did not respond or didn’t know. This compares to October poll results of 35 percent who said “better,” 34 percent “same” and 25 percent “worse.”

Looking at jobs, Southwesterners continue to voice concern about losing jobs with a little more than half confident they could find comparable jobs if they have to find other employment.

Specifically, 45 percent were “very” concerned or “somewhat” concerned about losing their jobs in the next year or having their hours of work reduced, while 17 percent were “not too concerned” and 38 percent were “not at all concerned.” This compares to October figures of 39 percent “very” or “somewhat” concerned, 17 percent “not too concerned” and 43 percent “not at all” concerned.

When asked how confident they were that they could find other employment at a comparable rate of pay within a reasonable time, 53 percent were “very” or “somewhat” confident, while 47 percent were “not very” or “not at all” confident. This compares to October figures in which 66 percent were “very” or “somewhat” confident and 33 percent were “not very” or “not at all” confident.

Southwesterners also were asked several questions about the environment and ranked drought as the biggest problem.

When asked if they made changes to their shopping and living habits over the past five years because of concerns about the environment, 64 percent of Southwesterners say that have made “a lot” or “some” changes, while 21 percent say “only a few” changes and 15 percent say “no” changes.

These percentages remain similar across demographic groups such as income, education and age, except gender. Women indicate they have made more changes than men, with 68 percent saying they have made “a lot” or “some” changes and only 9 percent saying “no” changes. In comparison, 59 percent of men have made “a lot” or “some” changes and one in five (21 percent) have made “no” changes in the past five years.

Southwesterners voice familiarity with environmental terms. Asked how well they understand terms sometimes used by the news media and scientists regarding the environment, most (84 percent) say they understand “renewable resource” and “the greenhouse effect” either “very well” or “somewhat well.” In comparison, 50 percent say they understand “clean coal” either “very well” or “somewhat well.”

When asked how likely is it that the U.S. will be able to provide for all of its energy needs without oil imports, four in 10 Southwesterners (42 percent) say that U.S. energy independence in 10 years is likely, in contrast to seven in 10 (72 percent) who say such independence is likely in 20 years. The likelihood of energy independence varies primarily by gender, age and education.

On the question of nuclear power plants, a plurality of Southwesterners oppose more such plants. Overall, nearly half (47 percent) oppose constructing more nuclear power plants with 30 percent strongly opposing new plants, 44 percent of respondents say they would support new nuclear power plants (25 percent “strongly” support and 19 percent “somewhat” support).

Respondents who support nuclear power plant construction were then asked if they would support such construction if it was within 20 miles of their own home. A third (34 percent) of those who had supported building new plants say that they oppose a plant within 20 miles of their homes.

The Arizona State University-Southwest Poll was conducted by telephone Jan. 13 to Feb. 8 among a random sample of 837 adult residents in the Southwest United States (255 in Arizona, 101 in Nevada, 380 in Texas and 101 in New Mexico). The results from the full survey have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

This is the third ASU-Southwest Poll since 2008. The next one – on health care – is planned for this spring.

It appears that Arizona State University is the only university in the Southwest region conducting a formal regional public opinion poll. Some of the survey questions are submitted by faculty researchers. The polling questionnaire is compiled by the professional staff of experts at ASU’s Institute for Social Science Research in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The institute’s research facilities include a multi-station telephone interviewing facility with computer-assisted telephone interviewing (CATI) capability and silent monitoring. More information is available at