This post includes climate and environment headlines, data points, and key takeaways from recent public polls - including new polling on clean energy investment as part of Biden’s economic plan; “direct pay” reforms to better incentivize clean energy production; electric vehicles and ethanol; and state-level polls in California and Massachusetts.
- Navigator - Support for Biden’s economic plan, with a description including investments in climate and clean energy, hits new high (Release, Deck)
- Data for Progress - Voters want the federal government to prioritize financial support for renewables over fossil fuels, and continue to support “direct pay” reforms to make it easier for clean energy power providers to access federal tax credits (Memo, Topline)
- CBS News + YouGov - For Americans who would consider purchasing an electric vehicle, high gas prices are now nearly as common of a rationale as environmental reasons (Article, Topline)
- POLITICO + Morning Consult - Few have heard about the Biden administration’s decision to allow higher-ethanol gasoline blends, but voters learn toward supporting the decision as a way to reduce gas prices (Crosstabs)
- UC-Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies (California) - Most California voters consider air pollution and extreme heat to be serious threats to the health and safety of their families; the majority also support the new state law requiring composting of all food waste (Release, Crosstabs)
- Boston Globe + MassINC (Massachusetts) - Majorities of Massachusetts residents support proposals to reduce buildings’ climate impacts; communities of color are most concerned about climate change (Article, Topline, Crosstabs)
GOOD DATA POINTS TO HIGHLIGHT
[National] Voters support Biden and Democrats’ “new economic plan” by a 71%-20% margin after reading a short description of it, including the fact that it would invest in clean energy like wind and solar power [Navigator]
[National] By a 71%-19% margin, voters support reforms that would make it easier for power providers to directly access the federal government’s clean energy tax credits without having to go through banks [Data for Progress]
[National] By a 58%-34% margin, voters believe that the federal government should provide more financial support to clean energy power providers than fossil fuel energy providers [Data for Progress]
[National] More Americans say that climate change and the environment is the single most important issue to them than any other issue aside from the economy and health care [Economist + YouGov]
[California] By a 68%-24% margin, California voters support the new state law requiring residents to compost their food waste to reduce pollution from landfills [UC-Berkeley]
[Massachusetts] 76% of Massachusetts residents support updating the state building code to require that buildings be better protected against climate change [Boston Globe + MassINC]
[Massachusetts] 70% of Massachusetts residents support requiring new or renovated buildings to be ready to charge electric vehicles [Boston Globe + MassINC]
[Massachusetts] 67% of Massachusetts residents support requiring new or renovated buildings to use only renewable electricity [Boston Globe + MassINC]
[Massachusetts] 57% of Massachusetts residents support requiring new or renovated buildings to be fully electric, using no oil or natural gas [Boston Globe + MassINC]
Navigator have been tracking support for a modified version of the Build Back Better Act for a couple of months now, using the following description:
“As you may know, Biden and Democrats' new economic plan will expand Medicare for seniors to include hearing coverage, lower health care costs by allowing Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices, and invest in clean energy like wind and solar power. Knowing this, do you support or oppose this new economic plan?”
Support for this clean energy-heavy economic plan from Biden and Democrats has reached its highest point in Navigator’s tracking, with 71% now in favor and just 20% opposed. This includes nearly unanimous support from Democrats (91% support / 3% oppose), overwhelming support from independents (70% support / 15% oppose), and even a 10-point margin among Republicans (49% support / 39% oppose).
Like other pollsters, Navigator finds that Biden’s job approval is sagging and he scores particularly poorly for his economic performance: the poll finds that voters disapprove of Biden’s handling of the economy by a 56%-41% margin. But with the poll also showing that the economy and inflation stand apart as the two issues that voters most want to see Biden focused on, there’s clear appetite from across the political spectrum for Biden to take some kind of decisive action to shore up the health of the economy and lower consumers’ costs.
Data for Progress
Voters want the federal government to prioritize financial support for renewables over fossil fuels, and continue to support “direct pay” reforms to make it easier for clean energy power providers to access federal tax credits (Memo, Topline)
This newly released polling and memo from Data for Progress focus on the issue of “direct pay” for clean energy providers, a proposed reform that would incentivize clean energy production through direct cash payments to energy providers as opposed to tax deductions (which many clean energy projects can’t benefit from because their tax liabilities aren’t high enough to begin with).
The poll finds that, as a matter of general policy, voters want the federal government to financially incentivize clean energy production over fossil fuel extraction: when asked to choose, 58% believe the federal government should provide more of its financial support to power providers that primarily generate electricity from clean sources and 34% believe that financial support should be more focused on power providers that primarily generate electricity from oil, gas, and coal.
And, consistent with Data for Progress’s previous polling on the topic, voters believe that this financial support for clean energy providers should be easily accessible. After reading that “most businesses can’t take advantage of their clean energy tax credits directly and must strike deals with banks to get the benefits,” 71% support reforms that “would make it easier for power providers to access the government’s clean energy tax credits.” Support for these reforms spans the political spectrum, with 85% of Democrats, 70% of independents, and 57% of Republican voters in favor.
Encouragingly, the poll also finds that support for “direct pay” reforms stands up to arguments that the reforms aren’t necessary. After reading the statements below from supporters and opponents of “direct pay” reforms, 65% of voters continue to support reforms to the clean energy tax credit system with just 23% opposed.
“Supporters of these reforms say that if communities want to build new clean energy projects, they should not have to rely on Wall Street bankers and lawyers who slow down the process. Opponents of these reforms say that developers have successfully built new clean energy projects across the country using these tax credits and we should leave them alone.”
CBS News + YouGov
This new poll from CBS News and YouGov finds that consumer interest in purchasing electric vehicles is largely stable from a year ago: 31% of adults say they would consider purchasing an electric vehicle if they were in the market for a car today, compared to 30% who said they would consider an electric vehicle when asked the same question last April. (It should be noted that, with EV sales surging, there has clearly been a recent increase in consumers converting that interest into actual purchasing decisions.)
Notably, when the poll asked interested consumers why they would consider a hybrid or electric vehicle, high gas prices (63%) only narrowly trail environmental cleanliness (66%) as a rationale for those interested in buying hybrids or EVs. These factors were cited far more often than the next most common rationales, including the fact that car companies are shifting to making more hybrids and electric vehicles (44%) and the increase in models and options to choose from now (42%).
POLITICO + Morning Consult
Few have heard about the Biden administration’s decision to allow higher-ethanol gasoline blends, but voters learn toward supporting the decision as a way to reduce gas prices (Crosstabs)
The latest national tracking poll from POLITICO and Morning Consult finds that just 15% of voters have heard “a lot” about the U.S. government allowing summertime sales of higher-ethanol gasoline blends in order to reduce gas prices. When informed about the decision with the following explainer, however, voters support the move by a 42%-28% margin (with 26% unable to give an opinion):
“As you may know, President Biden announced that the government would allow summertime sales of higher-ethanol gasoline blends in order to reduce gas prices. While this could lower gas prices, some say that higher-ethanol gasoline blends can contribute to smog in warmer weather. Do you support or oppose allowing summertime sales of higher-ethanol gasoline blends?”
The small percentage of voters who have heard a lot about the decision, combined with the fact that one-quarter can’t give an opinion on it even after learning the arguments for and against it, means this question is essentially a proxy for how voters are weighing the short-term benefits of measures to reduce gas prices against the environmental downsides. And with voters leaning in favor of the move, it’s clear that, with concerns about gas prices still extremely high, it’s hard to dissuade the public against any proposed solution that would lower costs at the pump. (POLITICO and Morning Consult also found last month that the majority of voters, including most Democrats, also support increasing domestic oil production in the short term.)
Thinking more long-term, there’s clear polling evidence that the surge in gas prices can be a compelling proof point to convince the public of the need to reduce American dependence on fossil fuels.
UC-Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies (California)
Most California voters consider air pollution and extreme heat to be serious threats to the health and safety of their families; the majority also support the new state law requiring composting of all food waste (Release, Crosstabs)
This new poll illustrates how Californians’ increasingly frequent experiences with pollution and extreme weather have emerged as major quality-of-life concerns: 64% of voters in the state say that extreme heat poses a “very” or “somewhat” serious threat to the health and safety of themselves and their family, and 63% say the same about air pollution.
There’s a high degree of partisan polarization in voters’ attitudes about these issues, with over three-quarters of Democrats but only around one-third of Republicans rating air pollution and extreme heat as at least “somewhat'' serious threats to their households. The kind of partisan split on the extreme heat question here provides yet more evidence that voters are increasingly interpreting extreme weather events through the lens of the climate change debate.
The poll also finds a great deal of support for the new California law requiring the composting of food waste in order to reduce pollution in landfills, with voters favoring the new policy by a 68%-24% margin.
Boston Globe + MassINC (Massachusetts)
Another state-level poll, courtesy of the Boston Globe and MassINC, finds that Massachusetts residents widely support requirements to make new construction in the state more climate-friendly:
70% support requiring new or renovated buildings to be ready to charge electric vehicles
67% support requiring new or renovated buildings to use only renewable electricity
57% support requiring new or renovated buildings to be fully electric, using no oil or natural gas
An even larger majority (76%) support a proposal to update the state’s building code to require that buildings be better protected against climate change.
The poll also asked how high of a priority climate change should generally be for the state government, and found that nearly half (47%) believe it should be a “high priority.” This represents a dip from the last Boston Globe / MassINC poll that asked this question in 2019, when 54% said climate change should be a “high priority” for the state government. Pocketbook issues are clearly top-of-mind for state residents right now, as the percentage saying that jobs and the economy should be a high priority has risen by seven points (68%, up from 61%) since 2019.
Looking ahead, Massachusetts residents are deeply concerned about the risks that climate change poses to their state without action to prevent it: 77% believe that climate change will be a serious problem for Massachusetts, including nearly half (48%) who believe it will be a “very” serious problem.
The poll’s crosstabs show that residents of color are particularly attuned to the threat that climate change poses to Massachusetts. Majorities of Latino (60%) and Black residents (57%) believe that climate change will cause “very serious” issues for the state if left unchecked, compared to 46% of White residents.