2005 Cape Cod Times-Cape and Islands NPR Stations Poll

Cape and Islands Residents Split on Wind Farm.

Cape and Islands residents remain evenly divided on whether the Cape Wind project should be approved. And despite three years of public hearings and intense media coverage, nearly a quarter say they haven't made up their minds on the issue.

Those are the results of a poll commissioned by the Cape and Islands NPR Stations and the Cape Cod Times conducted by the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth Center for Policy Analysis.

Altogether, 39.1% of respondents oppose the wind farm plan which, if approved, would place 130 wind turbines in Nantucket Sound. 37.2% support the project. With a margin of error of plus or minus four percent, those figures represent a statistical tie.

Support for Cape Wind

The relatively large number of undecideds is not due to ignorance of the project. 93% of respondents told UMass pollsters that they're aware of the Cape Wind proposal. The 93% awareness figure is higher than the percentage of Americans who can name the president in some national surveys.

Awareness of Cape Wind

Cape Wind supporters argue that the nation's first offshore wind farm could provide an average of 75% of the Cape's power needs using a clean, renewable energy source. Opponents argue that the 24 square mile project would despoil the Sound both aesthetically and ecologically.

The ambitious and controversial proposal is currently being given a final review by the Army Corps of Engineers which is the lead permitting agency. Last November, the Corps issued a draft environmental impact statement that was generally seen as favorable to the project. The authors of the Corps report wrote that the Cape Wind proposal was "an opportunity and an example of how to achieve a . . . significant reduction of greenhouse gases . . . to help stem global warming." But the release of the report set off a firestorm of protests from opposition groups during four contentious public hearings and in subsequent filings by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Massachusetts Audubon Society and others.

The Cape and Islands NPR Stations and Cape Cod Times poll shows that support -- and opposition -- for the project on the Cape and Islands cross party lines, as well as disparities in age and income, according to Dr. Clyde Barrow who headed the polling project for UMass. "There were no significant differences by party identification, none by age or income. So the kinds of demographic differences you might ordinarily expect just aren't there. I think it is probably because the Cape Wind issue is one of these odd issues that's not easily classifiable on an ideological scale. Environmentalists themselves are split on the issue."

One significant difference reflected in the poll appears to be geographic. Only 31.6% of Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard residents favor the project, compared to 46.4% on the Lower Cape, 40.6% on the Upper Cape and 33.7% on the Mid-Cape. The poll found Cape Wind opponents outnumber supporters in towns that overlook Nantucket Sound, 42% to 34%. In all other local towns Bourne, Sandwich, Brewster, Orleans,Eastham, Wellfleet, Truro, and Provincetown supporters outnumber opponents 44% to 33%.

Awareness of Cape Wind by Region

Support for Cape Wind by Region

Audra Parker of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound which opposes Cape Wind said the geographic disparity in the poll reflects the "strong opposition of the areas most likely to bear the negative economic impact" of the project if built. She called the closeness of the poll results and the large number of undecideds reflections of "the divisiveness and conflict over this issue" on the Cape and Islands.

Mark Rodgers of Cape Wind Associates said he's "grateful for the level of support" for the project reflected in the poll. He said other types of energy projects would be envious of that level of local support. He expects that in the future some who are now undecided or opposed will come around to support the project.

The telephone survey was conducted by the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth Center for Policy Analysis using a survey instrument developed by the Cape Cod Times and the Cape and Islands NPR Stations. A total of 648 telephone interviews were conducted from May 2 to May 10, 2005 for a margin of error of +/- 3.9%.

Cape Cod Times story

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2004 Cape Cod Times- Cape and Islands NPR Stations poll