North America’s West Coast represents some of the highest global potentials for wave energy output. We developed and conducted a survey of a sample of residents (N=2000) in California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia matched on gender, age, race, and education to the general population. Respondents were asked how much they had heard or read about wave energy; what first came to mind when they heard the term; their views of commonly cited risks and benefits; and their overall attitude toward wave energy development. Over half of our respondents had never heard or read about wave energy, and the most common “top of mind” associations indicated little or no knowledge about it. Oregon respondents indicated the highest levels of familiarity. Despite limited familiarity, the results suggest mainly positive attitudes toward wave energy with little variation by state of residence or proximity to the coast. Attitudes varied by gender, race, education and political ideology. In general, respondents who were male, white, college educated and politically liberal held more positive attitudes. Female respondents, in particular, wanted more information. Respondents expressed more agreement with statements about the benefits of wave energy development (e.g., for renewable energy, energy independence, economy/jobs, etc.) than its risks (e.g., to marine life, fishing, recreation, etc.). Risks to marine life, fishing and recreation were of more concern to those who reported visiting the coast at least once a month. Liberal respondents indicated higher levels of agreement with wave energy benefits and lower levels of agreement with its risks. Compared to other energy sources, respondents strongly preferred increasing the use of renewable energy sources like solar, wind and wave energy, as opposed to more traditional energy sources like hydro, geothermal, natural gas, nuclear, and coal.