04/04/2013 01:40 EDT | Updated 06/03/2013 05:12 EDT

Nanos Number: Majority in U.S. support Keystone XL pipeline

Nik Nanos digs beneath the numbers with CBC Power & Politics host Evan Solomon to get to the political, economic and social forces that shape our lives.

This week: New Pew Research poll shows a majority of Americans support the Keystone XL pipeline.

A new Pew Research Center survey reveals 66 per cent of Americans are in favour of building the Keystone XL pipeline, compared to 23 per cent who oppose the project.

The survey was of 1,501 Americans, conducted March 13-17, 2013. It is accurate to within 2.9 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The Keystone XL pipeline is hugely controversial in the United States, and has triggered massive protests outside of the White House in Washington, D.C.

But this data reveals that the majority of Americans actually support the pipeline.

Nik Nanos told Power & Politics host Evan Solomon Wednesday that when you put this into the context of a bitterly divided country on many issues, including the budget, 66 per cent is a significant majority.

That could be good news politically for the pipeline.

The Pew Research poll also breaks down support for the pipeline along party lines, showing 82 per cent of Republicans and 54 per cent of Democrats are in favour of the project.

Nanos is working as a Public Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center and is doing research on energy policy. He said, "it's pretty clear when you talk to some of the key players in Washington that if the president had his choice he wouldn't be dealing with this issue at all."

Nanos said that while Canadian officials have spent a lot of time in Washington trying to talk about the Keystone XL project, in Washington "this is straight domestic politics."

How the decision on the Keystone XL pipeline will impact Canadian and U.S. relations is barely an after-thought for most officials in Washington.

What these numbers also reveal is a tough battle ahead between the president and environmental groups opposed to the project.

"What Barack Obama needs is some environmental cover, because the Keystone XL pipeline has been symbolic and environmentalists have ratcheted up the stakes to make this symbolic of President Obama's environmental policy," Nanos said.

And that might be problematic for Canada, Nanos said. "When you talk to the players in Washington one of the things they consistently say is that they believe, in their opinion, that Canada is an environmental laggard.... and that the Americans want us to catch up."

Recognized as one of Canada's top research experts, Nik Nanos provides numbers-driven counsel to senior executives and major organizations. He leads the analyst team at Nanos, is a fellow of the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association, a research associate professor with SUNY (Buffalo) and a 2013 public policy scholar with the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington DC.