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Poll: Energy Crisis For Real?

Americans are divided over whether the power shortages now being experienced in California are real or just manufactured by power companies as a way of charging higher prices, according to a CBS News/New York Times poll.

Forty-three percent say that the high prices and periodic blackouts experienced by Californians are due to a real power shortage. But 45 percent say energy companies are just saying there's a shortage in order to charge higher prices. A majority of Americans would like the federal government to help California with its energy problem.

CBSNEWS - New York Times Polls





The most skeptical respondents are those in the West, and the sample there includes many Californians, who have experienced recent high energy prices and the threat of blackouts. There is a partisan difference in opinion as well. By nearly two to one, Republicans say the California power shortage is real. Democrats and independents are more likely to say power companies have manufactured the shortage.

here are also partisan and regional differences when it comes to the role the federal government should take in dealing with California's energy problems. Nationally, support for federal intervention is growing. Now 54 percent think the federal government should help California, up from 46 percent in February. Forty percent say the power situation is a state problem that the federal government should stay out of. Support for government assistance is strongest in the Northeast and West, and among Democrats. But by 53 percent to 41 percent, Republicans say it is a state problem.

CBSNEWS - New York Times Polls





One means of assistance could be government-set price caps on what power companies can charge. There is overwhelming support for this, and the support is bipartisan and in all regions. Seventy-nine percent nationwide favor setting limits on the amount power companies can charge for energy.

This poll was conducted among a nationwide sample of 889 adults, interviewed by telephone June 1-17, 2001. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus three percentage points on results based on the entire sample.

For detailed information on how CBS News conducts public opinion surveys, click here.

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