The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Pipeline Politics Keystone Splits the Democratic Vote

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.

Published on March 22, 2014 3:14 pm
  • Anthony

    I am a liberal democrat, and I wholeheartedly support keystone. It creates lots of good paying jobs. Case closed.

  • Boritz

    “Interestingly enough, Keystone was less popular amongst the more educated and wealthy Democrats…”

    “Whatcha go to college to get stupid?”
    — Sonny Corleone

    • Andrew Allison

      Apparently! Or perhaps to learn hypocrisy.

      • Jim__L

        Maybe not hypocrisy, just information about what is good for the philosopher-kings, peons be dam*ed.

        • Andrew Allison

          Hypocrisy: the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform; pretense. This perfectly describes the typical wealthy Democrat.

          • Jim__L

            Oh, they conform to their own standards or beliefs. It’s just that those standards or beliefs are totally self-serving, and destructive of others’ interests.

          • free_agent

            Which is pretty much what everyone’s standards are like. What’s truly annoying is when self-serving standards are wrapped in a mantle of idealistic virtue. Which I suppose isn’t so much different from any other faction, either.

          • Jim__L

            America didn’t used to be so winner-take-all. Federalism has more advantages than just figuring out some “optimum” to impose on everyone.

          • free_agent

            Don’t over-romanticize the past, though. The late 1800s were particularly crude and greedy, an era of capitalism that even unabashed capitalists find embarrassing. And yet it was a time of tremendous economic growth, tremendous advancement of the lot of the common person, and the country was extremely attractive to immigrants.

          • Jim__L

            It’s very important to pick and choose what you want to imitate from the past. That said, throwing all of it away wholesale would be a worse mistake than keeping absolutely all of it.

  • Andrew Allison

    Just what is surprising about, “. . . Keystone was less popular amongst the more educated and wealthy Democrats,. . . “? Wealthy Democrats are typically enamored of causes the costs of which don’t impact them.

  • Anthony

    So, may one infer from aforementioned that XL pipeline is partisan issue.

  • S.C. Schwarz

    The problem for Obama is that (1) Keystone makes obvious sense, (2) A majority of Americans want it approved, and (3) A majority of democrats want it approved. And yet it cannot be approved because the greens (See Tom Steyer) hate it. Answer: Stall indefinitely.

    • B-Sabre

      Which comports nicely with his natural tendencies to put off difficult decisions in the hope that they will solve themselves.