By any measure, the Obama Administration should have approved the Keystone Pipeline by now. From jobs to energy independence to lower consumer prices, there are multiple compelling narratives in its favor. There are even numerous findings that the pipeline will not adversely impact the natural environment or substantially affect the rate of Canadian oil sands development. This summer’s rail disaster in Quebec has even helped cement perceptions that pipelines are the safer, more environmentally-friendly option for transporting oil and gas.
All of these factors have generated 77 percent public support for the project. So, why is the pipeline still awaiting approval?
Because the 23 percent of Americans who either oppose or have no opinion about the pipeline have redefined what it is to be a vocal minority. As the below info-graphics demonstrate, activists’ use of social media dominates the debate. Shares, tweets, and viral commentary have overtaken polls as the first place policy makers turn when seeking to take the pulse of their constituencies. Activists understand that in the land where no politician wants to be first, but all clamor to be second, controlling the epicenter of public opinion has never been more important.