Americans Overestimate Alternative Energy Power, Trust Federal Agencies Most, Think America On Right Energy Path: Survey

Marketing firm survey indicates Americans trust alternative energy and natural gas companies most, but far overestimate the contribution to power generation alternatives offer today.

Social media and White House least trusted among energy news sources.

More than half of those questioned say market forces rather than government should steer energy policy


January 17, 2018


Americans overestimate the contributions of renewable energy and underestimate the role of coal, natural gas and oil, now and in the future, according to a national survey by the New York City and Washington DC communications and marketing consulting agency Makovsky.

And survey respondents said the best sources of energy information are US federal agencies, more so than the news media and much more so than Congress or the White House, a national survey by Makovsky indicates.

The Trust, Credibility and America’s Energy Future survey gave respondents a variety of choices among credible sources for information about energy, including the White House, Congress, newspapers and their websites, but it was federal agencies themselves (22% found them credible) that were perceived to be the most trustworthy.

Newspapers and their websites were cited for trustworthiness in 20% of the survey responses, while the White House garnered 13% and Congress got only 8%.

Millennials in the poll gave the highest credibility scores to federal agencies and TV news channels (33% and 24%, respectively), Makovsky said, with Millennials appearing to give more trust to information sources in general, with higher overall credibility scores when compared to other generations surveyed.

And despite social media ranking among the top information sources, it was considered the least credible of the sources listed (7%). High use combined with low credibility may be driven by the passive nature of social media—as opposed to consumers actively seeking it out.


Americans surveyed also considerably overestimate the contributions of renewable energy sources to energy generation. 

“In 2017, solar and wind together made up just 3% of U.S. energy consumption, while survey respondents put the figure at 21%,” the company said.

Those polled also predicted that wind and solar will make up 32% of energy consumption in five years, in contrast to industry experts’ predictions that renewable sources will produce less than 5% of U.S. energy consumption.

“Conversely, respondents perceived fossil fuels to be a much lower percentage of the energy mix than they are today and projected them to be even less in five years.”


And when it comes to the question of whether the US is on the “right path towards energy independence,” 65% said it was, compared to 43% who disagreed.

“When broken down by political affiliation, 80% of Republicans agreed, compared to 43% of Democrats and 38% of Independents,” Makovsky said.

A 61% majority of respondents agreed that domestic energy sources should be prioritized over foreign energy solutions.

Opinions are almost evenly split among Americans on whether market forces or the government should determine the best energy source for America.

“Slightly more than half (55%) say market forces should be responsible, whereas slightly less than half (45%) believe government should make the decision,” Makovsky said.

“Republicans (58%), ages 45-54 (62%), ages 55-64 (66%), incomes of $75k-$100k (62%) and $100k+ (61%) are most likely to support market forces, whereas Democrats (53%), age 18-34 (54%), incomes less than $35k (53%) lean toward government.


Makovsky Executive Vice President of Energy, Manufacturing and Sustainability Andy Beck said, that “these new results illustrate that Americans want reliable sources of information about energy issues, and the uncertainty of the past year has led them to put the most faith in federal agency policy makers and the news media.”

And “Americans also view energy company communications with skepticism and distrust.

“When asked to identify the most informative energy company communications method, the top response (36%) was “none of the above” followed by websites (29%), Facebook (15%) and advertisements (7%).”


“Americans actively seek and pay attention to news related to the energy industry on a wide range of topics. More than half of those surveyed (60%) report getting information or hearing about energy issues a few times a month,” the company concluded.

And while 27% of Americans consider the solar industry most trustworthy—utilities ranked second (24%) and the natural gas industry was a close third (23%.) in the survey, while the coal industry ranked last at 2%.

The new energy survey report is available at