Public Resource

Environmental Polling Roundup - August 6th, 2021

David Gold, Environmental Polling Consortium
08-06-2021

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 + LCV - Investments in clean energy, climate action, and environmental justice bolster support for the reconciliation bill; the most persuasive messages focus on economic aspects including how the bill will lower costs for households (Slide Deck)
  • Climate Power + Data for Progress - Voters support a range of climate-related proposals that were left out of the bipartisan infrastructure bill, especially clean electricity incentives, investments in energy efficiency, and investments in solar and wind (Release, Memo, Topline)
  • POLITICO + Morning Consult - Voters continue to back the bipartisan infrastructure bill, especially investments in roads, bridges, and water infrastructure; voters are more split on the reconciliation package, but overwhelmingly support expanded home care for the elderly and disabled (Topline, Crosstabs)
  • Data for Progress - Voters think that oil and gas companies have too much power, especially after learning about comments made by a senior Exxon lobbyist; “oil and gas companies” are a more compelling villain than “fossil fuel companies” (Release, Topline)
  • Yale Program on Climate Change Communication + George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication - Petition signing is the most appealing ask to get voters involved in climate advocacy, and there is clear interest in community preparedness groups (Summary, Full Report)

 

GOOD DATA POINTS TO HIGHLIGHT

  • 75% of voters (including 63% of Republicans) support investments to make homes, buildings, and schools more energy-efficient (Climate Power/Data for Progress)
  • 74% of voters (including 61% of Republicans) support investments to research and develop clean energy technologies (Climate Power/Data for Progress)
  • 73% of voters support the Build Back Better reconciliation bill after hearing the main provisions, costs, and tax components (Climate Power/LCV)
  • 73% of voters (including 59% of Republicans) support clean electricity performance incentives to encourage utility companies to switch to clean energy (Climate Power/Data for Progress)
  • 66% of voters believe that action to deal with climate change should be an important priority for the President and Congress this year, including a majority (58%) who feel strongly (Climate Power/LCV)
  • 66% of voters are more likely to support the reconciliation bill if it includes a provision to expand the use of clean energy like solar and wind (Climate Power/LCV)
  • The majority of Americans (52%) would be willing to sign a petition about global warming if asked (Yale/GMU)
  • Climate/environment is the most important single issue area for more Americans than any other issue are besides health care and jobs/economy (Economist/YouGov)

 

FULL ROUNDUP   

 

Climate Power + LCV - Investments in clean energy, climate action, and environmental justice bolster support for the reconciliation bill; the most persuasive messages focus on economic aspects including how the bill will lower costs for households (Slide Deck)

 

This deck from Climate Power and LCV includes a lot of timely data on how voters react to the reconciliation bill and how to both 1.) proactively communicate in favor of it and 2.) rebut common criticisms.

 

Pulling from the deck’s “Key Takeaways”:

 

  • The large majority of voters respond favorably to the Build Back Better reconciliation bill when its main elements (including the cost and tax provisions) are presented to them.
  • Most voters say that climate change is responsible for extreme weather events and there is strong majority support for action on climate change. Voters say they are more likely to support the Build Back Better package because of its provisions on clean energy, climate change, and environmental justice.
  • The provisions of the package that lower costs for working families and seniors, including energy costs, are important to swing voters and offer a winning response to criticisms that the Build Back Better package will fuel inflation.
  • There also is a winning rebuttal to the “tax-and-spend” criticism of the package, focusing on the facts that (a) the legislation would be paid for by making the wealthy and multinational corporations pay their fair share; (b) no one under $400,000 will pay more in taxes; and (c) the long-term benefits will outweigh the costs because the proposed investments will grow the economy, create jobs, and help tackle climate change.

 

The deck hones in on three simple, core messages that make for the best talking points about the reconciliation bill to key audiences:

 

  • The bill will help lower costs for working families and senior citizens and help make it more affordable to raise a family. (Best among “soft” supporters of the legislation, swing voters, and center-right voters)
  • The bill will ensure that economic growth benefits the middle class and working families, not just the wealthy. (Best among “soft” supporters of the legislation and Hispanic voters)
  • The bill addresses problems that have been ignored for too long, like climate change, lack of childcare, and affordable care for the growing elderly population. (Best among the Democratic base and the legislation’s strongest supporters)

 

One of the most striking findings in the deck is that voters expect net positive benefits on nearly every area tested in the poll; by margins of 20+ points, voters are more likely to expect positive than negative impacts from the bill on people like them, middle and working class families, the economy overall, the number of good-paying jobs, and climate change. The one exception to voters’ broad optimism about the impacts of the reconciliation bill is their ambivalence about its effects on the cost of living; voters are only six points more likely to expect a positive impact on the cost of living (46%) than a negative impact (40%).

 

This poll indicates that supporters of the reconciliation bill should pre-empt and/or counter opposition messaging about inflation and the cost of living by focusing on how the bill will lower electricity bills, save people money at the gas pump, and reduce the price of prescription drugs

 

Of the various ways that the legislation could make life more affordable, the poll finds that voters (especially persuadable audiences) care most about saving money at the gas pump and lowering electricity bills.

 

Climate Power + Data for Progress - Voters support a range of climate-related proposals that were left out of the bipartisan infrastructure bill, especially clean electricity incentives, investments in energy efficiency, and investments in solar and wind (Release, Memo, Topline)

 

More polling from Climate Power here, conducted in collaboration with Data for Progress, affirms that voters widely support the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework (71% support/19% oppose after a brief description) but want Congress to go further and make additional investments in climate action and clean energy. 

 

Three-quarters of voters (75%), including a majority of Republicans (55%), say it is important for Congress to build on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework by making “additional investments to address climate change and extreme weather, create jobs in clean energy, and reduce pollution.”

 

The poll tested a battery of climate-related policy priorities and found that, among the environmental provisions being considered in the reconciliation bill, voters are most supportive of investments in clean energy and making homes, buildings, and schools more energy-efficient. 

 

Here’s how the specific policies tested stack up in order of overall support:

 

  • 75% support investments to make homes, buildings, and schools more energy-efficient
  • 74% support investments to research and develop clean energy technologies
  • 73% support clean electricity performance incentives to encourage utility companies to switch to clean energy
  • 72% support tax credits for clean energy projects, such as solar and wind energy
  • 67% support investments in communities that historically have been negatively impacted by pollution
  • 66% support creating a Civilian Climate Corps to employ young people in community sustainability projects
  • 64% support investments to make electric vehicles more affordable for consumers
  • 62% support setting a clean electricity standard to achieve 100% clean electricity by 2035
  • 55% support phasing out government subsidies and financial incentives for oil, gas, and coal

 

Another notable finding from the poll is that, compared to a survey conducted just over a year ago in June 2020, higher shares of voters say that they are concerned about climate change, extreme weather, and pollution. Compared to last summer, concerns about air and water pollution are eight points higher (77%->85%), concerns about climate change are five points higher (69%-74%), and concerns about extreme weather are five points higher (75%->80%). 

 

These findings provide further evidence that heat waves and other unusual weather events have made Americans particularly attuned to extreme weather this summer, and potentially more receptive to arguments that link climate change and extreme weather as a result.

 

POLITICO + Morning Consult - Voters continue to back the bipartisan infrastructure bill, especially investments in roads, bridges, and water infrastructure; voters are more split on the reconciliation package, but overwhelmingly support expanded home care for the elderly and disabled (Topline, Crosstabs)

 

The latest national tracking poll from POLITICO and Morning Consult confirms one of the more consistent poll findings about infrastructure investment since Biden’s initial infrastructure plan was first unveiled: voters are most likely to prioritize infrastructure investments that go to roads, bridges, and water infrastructure.

 

The poll tested a variety of components of the bipartisan bill and found that these types of physical infrastructure investments rise to the top as the most popular:

 

  • 80% support updating roads and bridges
  • 75% support water, sewer, power and environmental remediation projects 
  • 71% support improvements to public transit
  • 66% support broadband infrastructure expansion
  • 64% support waterproofing and other upgrades to coastal infrastructure meant to mitigate against severe weather due to climate change
  • 61% support new passenger and freight rail projects

 

The poll also explained to voters that “reconciliation is a process that allows for some bills to be passed by Congress via a budget process that only requires a simple majority” and that  “Democrats in Congress are planning to use reconciliation to pass as much as $3.5 trillion in federal spending on social infrastructure.” After learning this information, voters are split roughly evenly on the Democratic reconciliation plan (42% support/39% oppose, with 19% undecided).

 

The more applicable data for climate advocates probably comes in the next series of questions, which asks about specific elements of the reconciliation bill. This battery finds that, when communicating to mass audiences (i.e., beyond the pro-climate base), the bill’s provision to expand home care for elderly and disabled Americans is the most compelling element to highlight

 

Of all the policies tested, that specific provision engenders the broadest support by a double-digit margin:

 

  • 76% support expanded home care for elderly and disabled Americans
  • 66% support free kindergarten
  • 65% support paid family and medical leave
  • 63% support measures to boost renewable energy
  • 62% support federal funding for affordable child care
  • 58% support federal funding for housing
  • 52% support tuition-free community college

 

It’s also worth noting that, while expanding home care for the elderly and disabled is the most popular provision among voters overall, renewable energy is still a key component to highlight with base Democratic voters; in terms of eliciting “strong” support from Democrats, renewable energy ranks in the top tier of all the provisions tested in the poll. 

 

What sets the home care provision apart is how broad-based its support is, including over two-thirds support (68%) among Republican voters.

 

Data for Progress - Voters think that oil and gas companies have too much power, especially after learning about comments made by a senior Exxon lobbyist; “oil and gas companies” are a more compelling villain than “fossil fuel companies” (Release, Topline)

 

Many of you will surely remember news that broke about a month ago when senior Exxon lobbyist Keith McCoy, believing he was meeting with a job recruiter, was caught on video explaining the company’s efforts to undermine climate action - including “aggressively” fighting climate science with “shadow groups”, claiming to support a carbon tax as part of a disingenuous PR strategy, and trying to gain leverage over U.S. Senators.

 

Data for Progress presented these comments in a national poll to see if they could be used to persuade voters that oil and gas companies have too much influence, and found that the lobbyist’s comments are indeed effective at pushing the public opinion needle. After reading the comments, voters become six points more likely (57%->63%) to believe that oil and gas companies have “too much power.” The effect probably would have been larger if not for the fact that the majority of voters, as a baseline, already believe that oil and gas companies have too much power.

 

Another notable finding here is that, while voters largely agree that “oil and gas companies” have too much power (57% too much power / 37% right amount / 6% not enough power), they are less convinced that “fossil fuel companies” have too much power (43% too much power / 45% right amount / 12% not enough power). This language test indicates that “oil and gas companies” sound more shadowy and powerful to everyday voters than “fossil fuel companies.”

 

This finding serves as a good reminder of two evergreen guidelines about mass communications on climate and energy policy: 1.) always be as specific and clear as possible when talking about energy issues to make sure the public understands what you’re referring to, and 2.) never assume that regular people talk about climate and energy issues with the same terminology that activists use.

 

Yale Program on Climate Change Communication + George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication - Petition signing is the most appealing ask to get voters involved in climate advocacy, and there is clear interest in community preparedness groups (Summary, Full Report)

 

Yale and GMU just released a fresh report, “Americans’ Actions to Limit and Prepare for Global Warming,” utilizing findings from their national survey in March. The new report includes a wealth of data about the types of actions that Americans are already taking to address climate change, as well as the types of actions they’d be willing to take if asked.

 

Anyone who has done organizing work is probably familiar with the power of petitions as a low-bar action for engagement and acquisition, and the Yale/GMU data provides national opinion data to further demonstrate their utility. In fact, the majority of Americans (52%) say they would be willing to sign on to a petition about global warming if a person that they liked and respected asked them to. 

 

For context, no more than one-third say they would take any of the other actions that the survey asked about, including donating money to an organization working on global warming (33%), volunteering time to an organization working on global warming (31%), or contacting government officials about global warming (28%).

 

The poll also found a wide delta between the share of Americans who would be willing to sign a petition about global warming (52%) and those who report signing such a petition in the last year (15%), illuminating that there is a very large, untapped pool of potential climate activists who are willing to engage on the issue but haven’t received a persuasive ask to get involved.

 

Another interesting finding in the report relates to the types of organizations that Americans would be willing to join to address climate change and its effects. Specifically, Americans are considerably more interested in joining a “group to help your local community prepare for and respond to natural disasters” (46% interested in or have already joined) than joining a “local campaign to convince your state and local government officials to take action to prepare your community for the impacts of global warming” (30% interested in or have already joined).

 

This is a good reminder that, to much of the public, politics is an uncomfortable and polarizing enterprise; just imagine how many would-be climate advocates live in conservative areas where such advocacy would put them in conflict with friends and neighbors. However, there are still other ways to get people engaged on climate-related issues and the Yale/GMU data indicates that local resilience projects can be an attractive, non-partisan route to involve more Americans in our cause.