A new Pew Research poll points out a deep schism in the Democratic Party over the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. A strong majority (61 percent) of those surveyed supported the project that would connect Canada’s tar sands oil with American refineries on the Gulf Coast. But while Independents and especially Republicans voiced strong support for Keystone, Democrats remained split, with 49 percent in favor and 38 percent opposed. Interestingly enough, Keystone was less popular amongst the more educated and wealthy Democrats, as Pew Research reports:
While Democrats without college degrees support construction by a wide margin (53% to 34%), only about four-in-ten college-graduate Democrats (39%) favor the project and nearly half (47%) oppose it. (Among Democrats in the survey, 28% had a bachelor’s degree or higher.) There are comparable differences among Democrats across income categories.
Democrats with annual family incomes of at least $100,000 are the least likely group to support the pipeline: about half (51%) oppose Keystone and 36% support it. Those with incomes between $50,000 and $100,000 are divided, while there is more support than opposition among those with family incomes of less than $50,000.
Whichever way you cut it, Keystone XL ought to be approved: a State Department report found that it wouldn’t have a significant impact on climate change (based on some very simple logic), it’s immensely important to America’s most important trading partner, and it’s a safer option than the accident-fraught alternatives like transporting Albertan crude by truck or rail.
But, for whatever reasons, greens have made Keystone their big issue. The President doesn’t want to alienate a significant portion of his party’s base ahead of this year’s elections. Many Democrats are, after all, already on the back over difficulties with the ACA rollout. For President Obama, this is yet another reason, as if he needed one, to kick the Keystone can past this fall’s midterm elections.