Roughly 60% of Independents say they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who supported easing restrictions on off-shore drilling, according to a recent Gallup survey (figure above). But the survey also shows that there's an even stronger positive response when Americans are asked about voting for a candidate who favors establishing tax incentives to reward energy conservation; who favors raising fuel mileage standards; or who favors authorizing a $150 billion dollar investment in the development of renewable energy technology.

Yet off-shore drilling remains a winning message for McCain since it is the one dimension of the two candidate's energy proposals that he can draw a contrast on.

Investing in nuclear energy, on the other hand, doesn't generate nearly as much of an enthusiastic response from voters, with only 47% of all Americans saying they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who backed expanded nuclear power, and only 48% among Independents (figure below).

Whoever is elected president, nuclear energy is likely to be a battle. The more hardline environmental groups are likely to strongly protest the inclusion of nuclear in any energy bill, potentially paralyzing the legislative process.