Public Resource

Environmental Polling Roundup - August 23rd, 2021

David Gold, Environmental Polling Consortium
08-23-2021

This post includes a roundup of climate + environment headlines from this week’s public polls, good data points to highlight, and a full roundup including key takeaways from each poll.

 

HEADLINES

  • YouGov - Partisanship drives Americans’ perceptions of weather (Article)
  • Navigator - The Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework remains popular (Release, Slide Deck)
  • POLITICO/Morning Consult - Renewable energy investment ranks among the most popular provisions in the Build Back Better budget; infrastructure has the public’s attention, but the IPCC report hasn’t broken through (Crosstabs)
  • Data for Progress + Invest in America - Grid modernization is an overwhelmingly popular selling point for the Build Back Better budget (Release, Topline)
  • Data for Progress - Voters widely support corporate climate accountability along the lines of the Polluters Pay Climate Fund Act (Memo, Topline)

 

GOOD DATA POINTS TO HIGHLIGHT

  • Voters support the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework by a 40-point margin (63% support/23% oppose) [Navigator]
  • Voters support the $3.5 trillion Build Back Better budget by a two-to-one margin (62% support/31% oppose) [Data for Progress + Invest in America]
  • 76% of voters (including 65% of Republicans) support modernizing the electric grid as part of the $3.5 trillion Build Back Better budget [Data for Progress + Invest in America]
  • 65% of voters support assessing a $500 billion fee on major oil and gas companies as partial compensation for their damage to the climate [Data for Progress]
  • 63% of voters support including measures to boost renewable energy in the Democratic reconciliation bill [POLITICO/Morning Consult
  • 61% of voters support creating a Civilian Climate Corps as part of the $3.5 trillion Build Back Better budget [Data for Progress + Invest in America]
  • More Americans say that climate change and the environment is the single most important issue area to them than any other issue area besides health care (Economist/YouGov)

 

FULL ROUNDUP

 

YouGov - Partisanship drives Americans’ perceptions of weather (Article)

 

This is a phenomenon that I’ve touched on in a previous roundup, and YouGov summarizes it nicely in this article. Excerpted here, with bolding added for emphasis:

 

Two recent surveys conducted by YouGov for Yahoo News in July and early August asked representative samples of Americans if they have “noticed more extreme events (heat waves, fires, storms, etc.) where you live?” Given a variety of recent weather and climate disasters, including the warmest June on record for the U.S., it’s not surprising that better than half (54%) say yes, they have noticed more extreme weather events. Two in five (38%) say no and 7% are unsure. 

 

What is perhaps more surprising – or perhaps not – is the apparent influence of politics on their answers: nationwide, 72% of Democrats and Democratic leaners say they have noticed extreme weather events in their area compared to just 36% of Republicans and Republican leaners. Republicans are more than twice as likely to say they have not noticed extreme weather events (60%) than Democrats (22%).

 

The question does ask about weather “where you live,” so we took the analysis one step further and looked at a subgroup of 14 states for which 2021 was their warmest June on record (Arizona, California, Idaho, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Utah) or their second warmest June ever (Connecticut, Maine, Montana, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming), according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). 

 

Sure enough, those in the 14 states hit hardest by the recent heat wave are more likely to report noticing more extreme weather events (67%) than Americans living in the other 36 states or Washington D.C. (50%).

 

Either way, however, the impact of politics persists. Democrats are more likely than Republicans to report noticing extreme weather in both the 14 heat wave states (78% vs. 49%) and elsewhere in the U.S. (70% vs 33%). Even in the states bearing the brunt of the record-setting heat wave, 48% of Republicans say they have not noticed more extreme weather events where they live. 

 

Navigator - The Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework remains popular (Release, Slide Deck)

 

The latest Navigator data (from their survey fielded August 12th through August 16th) finds that 63% of voters support the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework, with just 23% opposed. 

 

Support has dropped slightly overall and among voters from each party since Navigator’s previous poll, which came out of the field on August 2nd:

  • Overall: 63% support/23% oppose now (66%/21% in early August)
  • Democrats: 82% support/6% oppose now (86%/4% in early August)
  • Independents: 57% support/20% oppose now (62%/21% in early August)
  • Republicans: 43% support/43% oppose now (46%/41% in early August)

 

I wouldn’t read too much into the dip, as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework has consistently polled well since it was introduced. The slight decline here also mirrors the decline in Biden’s approval in recent weeks, so the change may simply reflect how Biden’s image has taken a bit of a hit. (Navigator mentions Biden in its description of the legislation.) 

 

Still, the Navigator data is a good reminder that, while many communicators have moved on to the fight over the reconciliation bill, public opinion on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework is still not a settled matter. And given how much the larger, climate-heavy budget package depends on Biden’s political capital and the infrastructure bill’s smooth passage, it’s important for supporters of climate action to continue making the case for the infrastructure bill as well.

 

POLITICO/Morning Consult - Renewable energy investment ranks among the most popular provisions in the Build Back Better budget; infrastructure has the public’s attention, but the IPCC report hasn’t broken through (Crosstabs)

 

The latest POLITICO/Morning Consult national tracking poll asked about a variety of investments that could be included in “Democrats’ reconciliation bill” and found that renewable energy is one of the most popular aspects of the budget proposal, trailing only expanded home care for the elderly and disabled and paid family and medical leave in terms of overall support.

 

Here are all the different elements that the poll asked about, ranked by the percentage who support including each element in the reconciliation bill:

  • Expanded home care for elderly and disabled Americans: 76% support/15% oppose
  • Paid family and medical leave: 65% support/25% oppose
  • Measures to boost renewable energy: 63% support/26% oppose
  • Federal funding for affordable child care: 62% support/29% oppose
  • Free pre-kindergarten: 61% support/29% oppose
  • Federal funding for housing: 57% support/32% oppose
  • Tuition-free community college: 51% support/39% oppose

 

The poll also asked about several major news stories to gauge how closely voters are following each, and found that most voters have been paying at least some attention to the Senate passing an infrastructure bill (70% heard at least some, including 34% who heard a lot). A clear majority of voters had also heard at least some about the Senate passing a $3.5 trillion budget plan to address issues like climate change, child care, and education (63% heard at least some, including 27% who heard a lot).

 

However, just 50% heard at least some about the UN IPCC’s findings about climate change and only 18% heard “a lot” - making the IPCC report the least followed out of nine news items that the poll asked about.

 

For context, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s resignation announcement was the most followed news story in the poll (79% heard at least some, including 49% who heard a lot).

 

It’s probably not too surprising that the poll found awareness of the IPCC report to be so low, but it confirms one of the biggest evergreen findings in climate polling: average Americans are paying little to no attention to what the scientific community is saying about climate change, so it’s up to climate advocates to convey the dangers of climate inaction in ways that the public can understand.

 

On that note, the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication have found that Americans consistently and dramatically underestimate the level of scientific agreement on human-caused climate change - so we still have a long way to go just to show that man-made climate change is the established consensus of the scientific community.

 

Data for Progress + Invest in America - Grid modernization is an overwhelmingly popular selling point for the Build Back Better budget (Release, Topline)

 

This new poll from Data for Progress and Invest in America measured support for both the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework and $3.5 trillion budget proposal. Like most other surveys, this poll found that voters overall are slightly more supportive of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework (69% support/23% oppose) than the $3.5 trillion budget - primarily because Republicans generally support the BIF (57% support/35% oppose) but not the larger budget proposal (41% support/51% oppose). 

 

Interestingly, though, this poll finds that Democrats are more enthusiastic about the $3.5 trillion budget (83% support, including 49% who strongly support it) than they are about the BIF (81% support, including 42% who strongly support it). It remains to be seen whether base voters will maintain that level of intensity for the budget plan throughout negotiations, but this data demonstrates one of the clear benefits of going big and pushing for as expansive of a bill as possible - especially as Democrats look to mobilize their base for the midterms.

 

Much like the POLITICO/Morning Consult poll covered above, Data for Progress and Invest in America also found that investment in long-term care is the single most popular component of the budget plan. Additionally, grid modernization tests as one of the most popular provisions. (The two polls tested slightly different lists of components, and the Data for Progress / Invest in America poll didn’t ask specifically about renewable energy investment.) Here’s the full list of components tested in the Data for Progress / Invest in America poll, ranked by overall support:

 

  • Investing in long-term care for seniors and people with disabilities: 82% support/13% oppose
  • Modernizing the electric grid, improving reliability, and funding new research: 76% support/17% oppose
  • Repairing and modernizing K-12 school buildings: 73% support/22% oppose
  • Creating a Civilian Climate corps to add jobs to address climate change and conservation: 61% support/31% oppose
  • Universal pre-kindergarten for all 3- and 4-year-olds: 61% support/31% oppose
  • Lowering the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 60: 59% support/34% oppose
  • Providing a pathway to citizenship for certain undocumented immigrants: 58% support/36% oppose
  • Two years of tuition-free community college: 58% support/37% oppose
  • Extending Child Tax benefits to families: 51% support/42% oppose

 

Aside from long-term care investment, grid modernization also earns more support from Republicans (65% support/26% oppose) than any other component of the budget and more “strong support” from Democrats (55%) - putting it in the rare sweet spot of policies that both energize the base and help bring Republicans on board with climate action.

 

Data for Progress - Voters widely support corporate climate accountability along the lines of the Polluters Pay Climate Fund Act (Memo, Topline)

 

Data for Progress has done a lot of great polling recently showing that voters want to end oil and gas companies’ cozy relationship with the federal government, and this newly released poll shows that the public is also on board with the substance of the Polluters Pay Climate Fund Act.

 

The legislation has the backing of nearly two-thirds of voters (65% support/25% oppose) after it’s described as “a new bill to impose a $500 billion fee on major fossil fuel companies as partial compensation for the damages caused by these companies’ emissions that have contributed to climate change.”

 

Support is sharply driven by partisanship, with Democrats (83% support/9% oppose) and independents (65% support/25% oppose) both much more supportive than Republicans (43% support/42% oppose). However, Republican voters don’t reject the idea outright. In fact, there’s a high degree of asymmetric polarization with Democrats caring far more about passing the legislation (50% strongly support) than Republicans care about stopping it (24% strongly oppose).