By Velda Addison, Hart Energy

Anyone hoping to capture the young vote, or rather the votes of those ages 35 and under, should pay attention to the latest energy poll by The University of Texas at Austin.

The results point to a widening divide between people under 35 and those older than 65 when it comes to energy policy and preferred energy sources.

Candidates keen on expanding offshore oil development or approving the Keystone XL pipeline might have difficulty getting support from the younger electorate, considering poll results show only 38% of the younger demographic would be more likely to vote for a candidate who supports those issues. The percentages were higher, though not overwhelmingly higher, for the older demographic.

Also interesting is the fact that the results showed that the majority of respondents in both age groups are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports expanding natural gas development—56% of those 35 and younger, compared to 63% of those 65 and older. However, the older ones seemed to be against exporting all of that natural gas. Forty-one percent of survey respondents under age 35 said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who supports natural gas exports, compared to only 22% of those ages 65 and older.

“Consumer perspectives on energy issues continue to track political party lines, but we’re seeing a widening gulf among older and younger Americans,” Sheril Kirshenbaum, director of the UT Energy Poll, said in a news release about the online poll.

Just more than 2,100 U.S. residents were surveyed for the poll conducted from Sept. 4 to Sept. 16, and just about half said candidates’ positions on energy issues would influence how they voted.

The release noted several other areas where the generational divide was present. Here are some areas where the two groups differ:

  • The older group is not as willing to pay higher prices to protect the environment. Results revealed that 56% of the younger voters are willing to pay higher prices, compared with only 20% of the older respondents;
  • A platform that includes reducing carbon emissions is more likely to attract younger voters. The survey showed that 68% of the survey’s younger respondents said they would more likely vote for candidates who support steps to lower carbon emissions, compared to 50% of the older respondents; and
  • Candidates pushing renewable sources of energy are likely to win votes from the younger group. Sixty-five percent of the respondents age 35 and under said they would more likely vote for expanding financial incentives for renewables, compared to 48% of those 65 and older.

Regardless of age, most appeared to see the importance of increasing science and research funding, as 53% of the 65-plus age group would likely vote for a candidate supporting increased funding in this area compared to 70% of those 35 and under.

“The online poll also corroborates a longstanding trend among likely voters: A much higher percentage of older respondents (87%) indicate they are likely to vote in the Nov. 4 election, compared with 68% of those age 35 or under,” the news release said.

But it appears that voter turnout, regardless of age, will continue to be a challenge.

For the last gubernatorial election in Texas, for example, only 38% of the state’s registered voters cast ballots, according to statistics from the Texas Secretary of State’s office. The percentage is usually higher for presidential elections (58.58% turnout in Texas in 2012), but dismal for other elections. Turnout for the 2013 constitutional election was only 8.55% in Texas.

Contact the author, Velda Addison, at