Public Resource

Environmental Polling Roundup - August 27th, 2021

David Gold, Environmental Polling Consortium
08-27-2021

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

  • Climate Power + Data for Progress - Voters in moderate U.S. House budget holdouts’ home districts want clean energy and climate investments on top of the infrastructure bill (ReleaseTopline)
  • POLITICO/Morning Consult - Climate ranks at the top of Democratic voters’ legislative priorities, and there is little backlash to the infrastructure bill (Crosstabs)
  • Navigator - With awareness of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework low, providing basic details still significantly boosts support with all constituencies (Topline)
  • Economist/YouGov - Rising sea levels, extreme heat, and drought continue to be the most widely accepted examples of climate affecting weather today (ToplineCrosstabs)
  • Yale Program on Climate Change Communication - Hot, dry days are more likely to affect Americans’ climate change beliefs than other types of extreme weather (ArticlePublished Study)
  • Quinnipiac - Half of Floridians think that climate change will negatively impact the state in their lifetimes (Release)

 

GOOD DATA POINTS TO HIGHLIGHT

  • Voters in the nine U.S. House districts represented by Democrats who tried to force concessions before moving ahead with the $3.5 trillion Build Back Better budget proposal support the budget proposal by a 62%-34% margin [Climate Power + Data for Progress]
  • Voters nationwide are more likely to believe that the western drought emergency, rising sea levels, Pacific Northwest heat wave, severe hurricanes, and western wildfires are all the result of climate change than regular weather patterns [Economist/YouGov]
  • Voters support the Senate’s bipartisan infrastructure bill by a 62%-23% margin [POLITICO/Morning Consult]
  • 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]
  • 44% of voters believe that climate change is a “critical threat” to the vital interests of the United States in the next ten years [POLITICO/Morning Consult]
  • Majorities of Florida voters believe that Governor Ron DeSantis needs to do more to address rising sea levels (55%) and protect the Everglades (52%) [Quinnipiac]

 

FULL ROUNDUP 

 

Climate Power + Data for Progress - Voters in moderate U.S. House budget holdouts’ home districts want clean energy and climate investments on top of the infrastructure bill (Release, Topline)

 

Climate Power and Data for Progress polled the nine U.S. House districts whose Democratic reps tried to hold up negotiations over the Build Back Better budget, and found that voters in these nine districts overwhelmingly want to see the budget passed.

 

Voters in these districts support the $550 billion infrastructure bill by a 46-point margin (70% support/24% oppose) and support the $3.5 trillion Build Back Better budget by a 30-point margin (63% support/33% oppose). 

 

The fact that there’s a drop-off in support between the infrastructure bill and the larger package indicates that there is a group of voters who want Democrats to pass just the infrastructure bill and not the reconciliation proposal, but the clear majority polled here want to see both proposals pass.

 

The polling we have so far on the two bills tells a pretty clear story about the public opinion trade-offs at hand: there’s a segment of right-leaning voters who want to see the infrastructure bill passed without additional investments, but failing to pass the larger package would risk deflating the Democratic base.

 

In this poll, Republicans are split on the infrastructure bill (48% support/48% oppose) and mostly oppose the $3.5 trillion budget (35% support/63% oppose). Independents are also more supportive of the infrastructure bill (64% support/27% oppose) than the $3.5 trillion budget (52% support/41% oppose), but the budget proposal still maintains majority support from independents.

 

Among Democrats, meanwhile, overall support is nearly identical for the infrastructure bill (93% support/3% oppose) and $3.5 trillion budget (94% support/3% oppose), but the intensity of Democratic support is higher for the full budget package: 72% of Democrats “strongly” support the $3.5 trillion budget, while 63% “strongly” support the infrastructure bill.

 

POLITICO/Morning Consult - Climate ranks at the top of Democratic voters’ legislative priorities, and there is little backlash to the infrastructure bill (Crosstabs)

 

The latest tracking poll from POLITICO and Morning Consult provides some national context to the findings above from Climate Power and Data for Progress. 

 

The POLITICO/Morning Consult poll shows quite clearly that Democrats care more about passing a climate bill than an infrastructure bill. In fact, there isn’t any legislative priority that Democratic voters demonstrably care more about than addressing climate change.

 

Here are the top-testing legislative priorities that POLITICO and Morning Consult asked about in the poll, ranked by the % of all voters who say each should be a “top priority” for Congress:

  • Stimulating the economy to recover from the coronavirus pandemic - 51%
  • Passing a healthcare reform bill - 42%
  • Reducing the federal budget deficit - 41%
  • Passing a bill to address climate change and its effects - 37%
  • Passing an immigration reform bill - 36%
  • Passing an infrastructure spending bill - 33%
  • Passing legislation placing additional restrictions on gun ownership - 29%

 

And here’s the same list of priorities ranked by the % of Democratic voters who say each should be a “top priority” for Congress:

  • Stimulating the economy to recover from the coronavirus pandemic - 59%
  • Passing a healthcare reform bill - 58%
  • Passing a bill to address climate change and its effects - 58%
  • Passing legislation placing additional restrictions on gun ownership - 49%
  • Passing an infrastructure spending bill - 47%
  • Passing an immigration reform bill - 36%
  • Reducing the federal budget deficit - 31%

 

When looking at voters overall, coronavirus recovery tops everything else and climate is a second- or third-tier priority.

 

Among Democratic voters, meanwhile, climate is clearly in the top tier (58% top priority) along with coronavirus recovery (59%) and healthcare reform (58%). And infrastructure (47%) is firmly in the second tier, along with new gun laws (49%).

 

POLITICO and Morning Consult also asked directly whether voters support or oppose the infrastructure bill passed in the Senate (described as “a $1 trillion bipartisan bill to improve America’s infrastructure”) and found it to be broadly popular overall, with especially high support among Democrats:

  • Overall: 62% support/23% oppose
  • Among Democrats: 81% support/6% oppose
  • Among independents: 57% support/25% oppose
  • Among Republicans: 45% support/42% oppose

 

All this data reinforces that infrastructure is very important to Democratic voters - just not to the same extent as addressing climate change. Given that, we’re likely to see a lot of disappointed Democratic voters if Democratic leadership can’t deliver on both pieces of their one-two strategy for infrastructure and additional climate investments. 

 

Navigator - With awareness of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework low, providing basic details still significantly boosts support with all constituencies (Topline)

 

I’ve mentioned in previous roundups that the infrastructure bill’s popularity is important for climate advocates, however disappointed we may be in what was cut from it. Even setting the legislative mechanics aside, the prospects of the $3.5 trillion Build Back Better budget passing depend a lot on President Biden’s popularity - which, in turn, depends to some extent on the popularity of the infrastructure bill and voters’ awareness of it.

 

Infrastructure has become a key driver of positive news that voters are internalizing about Biden, as you can see in the word cloud below from Navigator’s latest poll. The poll asked in open-ended fashion what positive things people had seen, read, or heard about Biden recently. Larger words in the word cloud signify a larger number of responses mentioning that word.

 

 

Along with “coronavirus” and “vaccines,” “infrastructure” comes through clearly as one of the main topics in positive coverage of Biden.

 

The poll also asked about the infrastructure bill in a couple of different ways. First, Navigator finds that a plurality of voters support the “Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework” after learning that the Senate recently voted to pass it (43% support/28% oppose, with 29% not sure). Voters clearly have a hard time evaluating the bipartisan infrastructure deal without being told any specifics about what’s in it: in this poll, just 18% say they’ve heard “a lot” about the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework.

 

Support then shoots up to a clear majority (63% support/23% oppose, with 14% not sure) after a concise explanation of what the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework contains: “Regardless of how much you have seen or heard about the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework [BIF], do you support or oppose President Biden and a bipartisan group of Senators passing a new infrastructure plan to improve roads and bridges, expand power infrastructure, increase passenger and rail access, expand broadband access, and improve water infrastructure?”

 

Polling over the last several months has consistently shown that voters are at least vaguely aware that an infrastructure bill is in the works, and they are more likely to support it the more specifics they hear about it. However, this Navigator data indicates that voters are still far away from internalizing what’s in the bipartisan infrastructure deal. Even basic education about the infrastructure bill can therefore go a long way to enhancing support for it and, in turn, bolstering Biden’s standing going into budget negotiations.

 

Economist/YouGov - Rising sea levels, extreme heat, and drought continue to be the most widely accepted examples of climate affecting weather today (Topline, Crosstabs)

 

The Economist and YouGov recently started including a series of questions about extreme weather and climate change in their monthly tracking polls, and so far the data has been quite stable in terms of which types of weather Americans are most likely to associate with climate change. 

 

Here are the latest data points from each of the types of weather they ask about, including the percentages who say that each weather event is “the result of climate change” vs. the kinds of event that “just happen from time to time”:

  • Rising sea levels: 57% result of climate change / 29% just happens
  • Pacific Northwest heat wave: 50% result of climate change / 33% just happens
  • Western drought emergency: 49% result of climate change / 35% just happens
  • Western wildfires: 47% result of climate change / 37% just happens
  • Severe hurricanes: 44% result of climate change / 40% just happens

 

While there’s a clear need to draw a firmer connection between each of these types of extreme weather and climate change, it certainly seems that the connection is more intuitive to the public in the case of weather events that are driven by hot temperatures.

 

Yale Program on Climate Change Communication - Hot, dry days are more likely to affect Americans’ climate change beliefs than other types of extreme weather (Article, Published Study)

 

This newly published study from Yale examines the connection between extreme weather events and climate change beliefs in a more rigorous fashion. Yale combined public opinion data over time with actual contemporaneous weather conditions to determine how different types of first-hand weather experiences impact people’s beliefs about climate change. 

 

Similar to what the Economist/YouGov poll above found about the stronger perceived link between hot weather and climate change, Yale found that hot, dry days appear to increase Americans’ beliefs that they’ve personally experienced the effects of global warming. Meanwhile, heavy rainfall does not appear to have an effect. 

 

From the article linked here from Yale Climate Connections (the full study is also online for those with journal access): 

 

“The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, or YPCCC, the publisher of this site, has been using nationally representative surveys for 12 years to track which Americans think they have personally experienced global warming.

 

The data show that Democrats and Republicans living in the same states or counties — or even sharing the same roof — can be a world apart when it comes to perceived experience with global warming. While 60% of Democrats nationally say they have personally experienced global warming, only 22% of Republicans agree.

 

The strong influence of partisanship on people’s understanding of global warming may not be surprising, but are there some changes in the weather that people are more likely to link with “global warming?” If there are, these weather events are potential conversation starters about climate change.

 

In a recent study published in the journal Global Environmental Change, my colleagues and I tried to answer this question by combining 12 years of YPCCC survey data with 11 different temperature and precipitation indicators of changing climate conditions over time. Together, the indicators captured long-term temperature and precipitation trends, and also recent extreme heat, rainfall, and snow events between 2008-2015.

 

We found that only one type of weather affected Americans’ beliefs that they had experienced global warming: hot, dry days. When hot, dry days persist for a long period of time, drought conditions arise. In particular, the intense heat and lack of rainfall that affected Texas and the Midwest in 2011, and which turned into a severe drought, stands out clearly in the study’s climate data. This drought was also associated with extreme wildfires in Texas, which burned about 4 million acres that year, doubling the previous record.

 

….

 

Today, we are breaking heat records at twice the rate as cold records, which before the 1950s had a roughly equal chance of occurring. Drought is the most persistent of extreme weather events, and has devastating effects on agriculture and water supplies, which may explain why people were likely to recall it and link it with climate change.

In our study, people did not link local increases in heavy rainfall with global warming. 

 

Given that the connections between global warming and precipitation patterns are more complex than those for temperature alone, perhaps this is not surprising. Yet the relationship is important and has major consequences for our economy and health. Scientists recently calculated that the impact of global warming on Hurricane Sandy includes a price tag of $8 billion from the flooding damage. But many Americans don’t understand how carbon pollution could cause an increase in flooding and hurricane damage. For them, the dots have not been connected yet between cause and effects.”

 

Quinnipiac - Half of Floridians think that climate change will negatively impact the state in their lifetimes (Release)

 

Quinnipiac polled Florida voters and found that 51% believe climate change will have a significant negative effect on the state in their lifetimes, while 44% don’t expect it to. 

 

These beliefs are driven in large part by both party and age: 83% of Florida Democrats expect to see significant negative impacts from climate change in Florida, compared to just 17% of Republicans. Voters aged 18 to 34 are also far more likely to expect to see the significant negative impacts of climate change in Florida (70%) than voters aged 35-49 (53%), voters aged 50-64 (47%), or voters aged 65+ (40%).

 

I’d be curious to see more polling that asks specifically about state-level impacts, especially in coastal states like Florida. There is evidence that voters living near coastlines are relatively more attuned to the dangers of climate change, and Americans may be less likely to dismiss warnings about climate impacts that ring true to their first-hand experiences. (Pew did some interesting research on this last year.)

 

The Quinnipiac poll also asked whether voters believed Governor Ron DeSantis was doing enough, doing too much, or needs to do more about a couple of specific environmental issues, and found that majorities believe he should do more both to address rising sea levels (55%) and protect the Everglades (52%).