About Half the Public Backs the ConocoPhillips Willow Project in Alaska

54% of Republicans and 48% of Democrats support the controversial oil development
March 22, 2023 at 5:00 am UTC

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The Biden administration's approval of a controversial oil development in Alaska’s remote North Slope known as the Willow project has led to some questions about whether the administration is working against its own climate goals. But a new Morning Consult survey shows the public is more likely than not to support the $8 billion ConocoPhillips project. 

Republicans, Baby Boomers Most Likely to Support Biden’s Approval of Willow Project

The shares of respondents who said they support or oppose the Biden administration's approval of the ConocoPhillips Willow oil development in Alaska
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Survey conducted March 16-17, 2023, among a representative sample of 2,200 U.S. adults, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-2 percentage points. Figures may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

Republicans and Democrats show similar levels of support for controversial Willow project

  • Nearly 1 in 2 U.S. adults said they support the ConocoPhillips project, including 48% of Democrats and 54% of Republicans. 
  • Support for Willow rises among older generations, with 60% of baby boomers backing the project. Among the generations, support for Willow is lowest with Gen Zers (28%), while about 2 in 5 millennials back the development. 
  • Considering oil developments in general, more than 1 in 2 Republicans said they believe the positive economic impacts of oil developments outweigh the negative environmental impact, while about 1 in 3 Democrats agree. On the contrary, nearly the same share of Democrats (38%) said the negative environmental impacts of oil developments outweigh the positive economic impacts.

The Public Is More Likely to Believe Positive Economic Impacts of Oil Developments Outweigh Negative Environmental Impacts

The shares of respondents who said they agree more with the following:
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Survey conducted March 16-17, 2023, among a representative sample of 2,200 U.S. adults, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-2 percentage points. Don't know/No opinion responses are not shown.

Despite TikTok push to #StopWillow, Biden administration moves ahead with approval of oil development

Social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram have been buzzing with calls to #StopWillow, an oil development proposed by ConocoPhillips in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, the country’s largest expanse of public land. 

The calls were not enough to stop the Bureau of Land Management from issuing its approval of the project on March 13, albeit a scaled-down version with only three drill sites instead of the five that were proposed earlier. 

The nearly 500-acre development is expected to produce 180,000 barrels of oil per day at its peak, which supporters of the project say would help decrease the nation’s dependence on foreign oil — an important point as the Biden administration tries to deliver on other promises like keeping gasoline prices low. 

However, the project would add at least 263 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions through the use of its oil over the next 30 years. In an effort to stifle some backlash, the Biden administration also issued an order protecting 16 million acres in the nearby wilderness and the Beaufort Sea from any further oil and gas leasing. 

But lawsuits against the administration have already been filed, as expected, by coalitions of environmentalists and conservation groups alike. The groups contend that the project undermines the administration's climate goals. 

The project was a longtime priority for Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who worked for years with President Joe Biden for Willow’s approval, which was also backed by other state lawmakers and Alaska Native leaders. 

The March 16-17, 2023, survey was conducted among a representative sample of 2,200 U.S. adults, with an unweighted margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

A headshot photograph of Julia Martinez
Julia Martinez
Energy & Auto Analyst

Julia Martinez previously worked at Morning Consult as an energy & auto analyst on the Industry Intelligence team.

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