Public Resource

Environmental Polling Roundup - December 10th, 2021

David Gold, Environmental Polling Consortium
12-10-2021

This post includes a roundup of climate and environment headlines, data points, and key takeaways from this week’s public polls - including a lot of new polling on the Build Back Better plan, its climate and environmental provisions, and economic arguments in favor of the plan.

 

HEADLINES

  • Data for Progress + Invest in America - Majorities continue to support the Build Back Better plan and its major climate and environmental investments when provided with brief descriptions; voters side more with economic arguments in favor of the plan than economic arguments against it (Article, Topline)
  • Data for Progress - Support for the Build Back Better plan remains high after voters hear back-and-forth arguments about its impact on inflation (Article, Topline)
  • POLITICO + Morning Consult - More voters support than oppose the Build Back Better plan when it’s described as “the Democrats’ roughly $2 trillion Build Back Better climate and social spending package”; health care provisions continue to drive support, and majorities also support specific climate and clean energy provisions (Article, Crosstabs)
  • Monmouth University - Support for the Build Back Better plan is steady, including majority support for including “a significant amount of money to deal with climate change” (Release, including topline and crosstabs)
  • NPR + Marist College - Americans are more inclined to believe that the Build Back Better plan will have a positive impact on jobs than inflation; perceptions of its personal impact are sharply driven by partisanship (Article, Crosstabs)
  • Conservative Energy Network - Voters overwhelmingly favor increased use of renewables and are far more likely to vote for political candidates who recognize how human activity contributes to climate change (Release, Topline)

                                  

 

GOOD DATA POINTS TO HIGHLIGHT

  • Voters support the Build Back Better plan by a 60%-33% margin when provided with a brief description including its major provisions and a $1.75 trillion price tag [Data for Progress + Invest in America]
  • 89% of voters support increasing research and development funding for clean energy solutions including electric storage [Conservative Energy Network]
  • 84% of voters support the government taking action to accelerate the development and use of clean energy in the United States [Conservative Energy Network]
  • 82% of voters support the government taking steps to reduce emissions of gasses like carbon dioxide and methane emissions that cause global climate change [Conservative Energy Network]
  • 76% of voters are more likely to support a candidate for public office who believes human activity is contributing to climate change [Conservative Energy Network
  • 72% of voters support creating a carbon tax by penalizing businesses and industries who emit high levels of carbon dioxide with higher taxes to incentivize cleaner operations [Conservative Energy Network
  • 61% of voters support the Build Back Better plan’s provision to incentivize clean energy technology innovations [POLITICO + Morning Consult]
  • 59% of voters support the Build Back Better plan’s provision to incentivize the installation of solar panels in homes [POLITICO + Morning Consult]
  • 58% of voters support including $555 billion in the Build Back Better Act to expand the use of clean energy, prepare for extreme weather events, and create new American jobs in manufacturing and environmental conservation [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 besides health care and the economy [Economist/YouGov]

 

 

FULL ROUNDUP

 

Data for Progress + Invest in America

Majorities continue to support the Build Back Better plan and its major climate and environmental investments when provided with brief descriptions; voters side more with economic arguments in favor of the plan than economic arguments against it (Article, Topline)

 

The latest poll from Data for Progress + Invest in America finds that voters support the Build Back Better Act by a 60%-33% margin when it’s described as “a proposal to invest $1.75 trillion over the next ten years to better fund long-term care for seniors and people with disabilities, expand Medicare coverage to include hearing, invest in clean energy, extend tax credits for families with children, and provide subsidies for child care.”

 

An early November poll released by the same organizations found that voters supported the plan by a nearly identical 61%-32% margin. Public support for the Build Back Better plan has been very consistent since it was first introduced, and this new tracking data shows that support for the package has remained steady over the past few weeks.

 

The new poll also asked specifically about whether voters supported including $555 billion in the bill “to expand the use of clean energy, prepare for extreme weather events, and create new American jobs in manufacturing and environmental conservation.” Voters support this provision by a strong 58%-32% margin, as climate and environmental investments continue to rank among the most broadly popular aspects of the Build Back Better plan after health care provisions such as investments in long-term care (75% support in this poll) and expanding Medicare to cover hearing (71%).

 

The poll also simulated some of the debate that voters are likely to hear about the bill’s impact on the economy, finding that supporters have effective arguments about Build Back Better to counter opposition messaging that tries to stoke inflation fears.

 

All poll respondents were shown the following opposition message: “Congress cannot pass the Build Back Better Act now because it will create unnecessary entitlement programs, grow the national debt, and drive up inflation, burdening American families with even higher costs.”

 

In a split-sample test where half of respondents saw a positive argument focused on jobs and half saw a positive argument focused on inflation (both pasted below), voters sided more with the argument in favor of the Build Back Better plan by double-digit margins - including a 53%-37% margin when shown the inflation argument and a 52%-38% margin when shown the jobs argument.

 

  • Inflation Argument: “Congress needs to pass the Build Back Better Act now because these investments will tackle inflation head on, getting people back to work, and driving down costs for hardworking families and seniors.”
  • Jobs Argument: “Congress needs to pass the Build Back Better Act now because it will create new jobs, getting Americans back to work after the pandemic while creating new opportunities for seniors and children.”

 

The fact that the margins on these questions are narrower than the margin in support of the plan at the start of the survey (60%-33%) indicates that the opposition message has some punch, however.

 

Early polling on the Build Back Better plan showed that focusing on lower costs was a key argument in favor of the legislation even before the recent spike in inflation concerns, and opponents’ focus on inflation makes it all the more important to educate the public about how the bill will lower household costs. (See this LCV/Climate Power poll from July, which recommended that advocates focus on how the legislation will “lower costs for working families and senior citizens and help make it more affordable to raise a family.”)

 

Data for Progress

Support for the Build Back Better plan remains high after voters hear back-and-forth arguments about its impact on inflation (Article, Topline)

 

More new polling by Data for Progress this week drives deeper into the overlap between household cost concerns and the Build Back Better plan.

 

This poll found that half or more of Americans are “very concerned” about the costs of several major expenses that the bill addresses, including:

  • Costs of prescription drugs (53% “very concerned”)
  • Healthcare costs, such as expensive hearing aids (52%)
  • Costs or quality of long-term care for seniors and people with disabilities (50%)

 

The data is a good reminder that, while current inflation concerns around gas and grocery prices shouldn’t be minimized, they haven’t made Americans forget their deep, long-standing concerns about the costs of health care and prescription drugs - which the Build Back Better Act would directly address.

 

The poll finds that voters support the Build Back Better Act by a 57%-34% margin after being shown inflation-focused messages in favor of it (“Supporters of the Act say it will counter inflation directly because it will lower costs of things Americans spend most on, like prescription drugs, rent, child care, and elder care”) and against it (“Opponents of the Act say it is reckless government spending that will create unneeded entitlement programs, add to national debt, and increase inflation, hurting consumers”).

 

Given that the public still knows very little about the particulars of the Build Back Better plan, it makes sense for advocates to follow the model of the message tested in this poll and explain which specific types of expenses the bill would address - including the costs of health care, child care, and senior care.

 

POLITICO + Morning Consult

More voters support than oppose the Build Back Better plan when it’s described as “the Democrats’ roughly $2 trillion Build Back Better climate and social spending package”; health care provisions continue to drive support, and majorities also support specific climate and clean energy provisions (Article, Crosstabs)

 

POLITICO and Morning Consult, as they regularly do in their polling, gauged support for the Build Back Better plan this week with a description that includes basically no information about the bill beyond its expected costs and the fact that it’s being put forth by Democrats. While this is definitely not favorable framing - poll after poll shows that voters support the bill more the more they learn about what it specifically includes - it unfortunately does mirror how the media has tended to cover it.

 

The poll finds that voters support the plan by a 47%-40% margin when it’s described as “the Democrats’ roughly $2 trillion Build Back Better climate and social spending package.”

 

And as has long been the case, specific provisions in the Build Back Better plan earn higher support than the plan on the whole - reinforcing how important it is for advocates to educate the public about what’s in the legislation. The top-testing provisions include:

  • Funding for home health care for seniors and people with disabilities (76% support)
  • Expanding Medicare coverage to cover hearing services (75% support)
  • Allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices (71% support)
  • Funding for affordable housing (65% support)
  • Paid family and medical leave for new parents (63% support)
  • Offering subsidized health insurance to low-income people in states that have not expanded Medicaid (63% support)

 

While the top-testing items mostly relate to health care, the poll also underlines the continued popularity of climate and environmental provisions. All of the climate- and environment-related Build Back Better provisions that the poll tested have more support than opposition, including:

  • Incentivizing clean energy technology innovations (61% support / 25% oppose)
  • Incentivizing the installation of solar panels in homes (59% support / 27% oppose)
  • Investing in fortifying resilience to extreme weather events (57% support / 24% oppose)
  • Extending existing tax credits for electricity produced from renewable sources (57% support / 27% oppose)
  • Incentivizing the buying of electric vehicles through tax credits (47% support / 37% oppose)

 

Monmouth University

Support for the Build Back Better plan is steady, including majority support for including “a significant amount of money to deal with climate change” (Release, including topline and crosstabs)

 

This new poll from Monmouth University further demonstrates how the Build Back Better plan’s climate focus has a net positive impact on public support.

 

The poll first tested support for the Build Back Better plan by asking respondents whether they support President Biden’s “multi-trillion dollar spending plan” to “expand access to healthcare and childcare, and provide paid leave and college tuition support.” Americans support the plan by a 61%-35% margin when provided with this explanation, which is essentially unchanged from the support that Monmouth’s previous polling found for the plan in November (62%-35%) and July (63%-35%) - further reinforcing how steady support for the legislation has been over time.

 

The poll then informed respondents that the plan “also includes a significant amount of money to deal with climate change” and found that the majority of Americans support “the climate change part of the plan” specifically (56% support / 42% oppose) - including over two in five (42%) who strongly support the climate change component of the plan.

 

NPR + Marist College

Americans are more inclined to believe that the Build Back Better plan will have a positive impact on jobs than inflation; perceptions of its personal impact are sharply driven by partisanship (Article, Crosstabs)

 

The latest poll from NPR and Marist College asked about Build Back Better in some interesting ways that I haven’t seen elsewhere. 

 

First, they tested support for the bill using the Build Back Better name but without providing any real explanation for what it is: “Recently, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Build Back Better Bill and it is now being debated in the U.S. Senate. In general, do you support or oppose this bill?”

 

With this brief prompt, the poll found that Americans support the plan by a narrow margin (41% support / 34% oppose) and one-quarter (25%) are understandably unsure. 

 

It’s a good test of how people instinctively respond to the “Build Back Better” branding, and the polarization of attitudes about it along partisan lines (74% of Democratic respondents say they support the bill, while 67% of Republican respondents say they oppose it) indicates that most voters at least know to associate “Build Back Better” with President Biden and Democrats.

 

The poll also asked whether people are optimistic or pessimistic about the plan’s impact on a few different areas, finding that Americans are relatively more optimistic about Build Back Better’s impact on “creating better paying jobs” (46% optimistic / 42% pessimistic) than on “lowering inflation” (35% optimistic / 51% pessimistic) - underscoring the need to educate the public about how the legislation will lower household expenses.

 

When it comes to the bill’s personal impact, Americans are split on their expectations about the bill “helping people like you” (42% optimistic / 46% pessimistic). Attitudes here are driven sharply by party, with Democrats far more likely to say they’re optimistic that the bill will help people like them (69%) than independents (36%) or Republicans (19%). 

 

While this data clearly shows how much work remains to convince Americans that the bill will help everyday households, it also provides some possible indication that attitudes are moving in the right direction on this point. The numbers here are quite a bit more positive, for example, than a USA Today/Suffolk University poll last month that found only 26% of voters believed the reconciliation bill would help them and their family.

 

Conservative Energy Network

Voters overwhelmingly favor increased use of renewables and are far more likely to vote for political candidates who recognize how human activity contributes to climate change (Release, Topline)

 

This national voter survey was released by the Conservative Energy Network, “a coalition of 21 state-based conservative clean energy organizations,” so it has a heavy focus on “market-based solutions” to the climate crisis and the ways that Republican candidates should position themselves on climate and clean energy issues.

 

That said, the survey demonstrates plenty of support for government policies to boost clean energy and address the environment. For example, they find that the overwhelming majority of voters (84%) support the government “taking action to accelerate the development and use of clean energy in the United States” and over four-fifths (82%) favor the government “taking steps to reduce emissions of gasses like carbon dioxide and methane emissions that cause global climate change.” 

 

More specifically, seven in ten support a carbon tax (72% support / 28% oppose) when it’s described as “creating a carbon tax by penalizing businesses and industries who emit high levels of carbon dioxide with higher taxes to incentivize cleaner operations.”

 

The poll results also line up with plenty of other public polling showing that Americans want to see the country put more emphasis on renewables and less emphasis on fossil fuels. Majorities say that the country should put more emphasis on solar power (70% more emphasis / 13% less emphasis), wind power (60% more / 19% less), and hydropower (59% more / 14% less), and on net voters want to see less emphasis on coal (24% more / 51% less). 

 

As in other public polling, there is less consensus here about what the country should do with natural gas (48% more / 23% less) and nuclear power (37% more / 34% less).

 

The poll also demonstrates how support for clean energy and climate solutions are winning stances politically. The clear majority of voters say they plan to vote for candidates who support clean energy development like solar and wind (71%), while just 12% say they will vote against candidates who support clean energy development like solar and wind. Additionally, three-quarters (76%) say they are more likely to support a candidate for public office who believes human activity is contributing to climate change.