This post includes climate and environment headlines, data points, and key takeaways from recent public polls - including new polling on the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), climate and the environment as policy priorities, and the personal impacts of climate change.
- Data for Progress - Two-thirds of voters support the IRA when they read a brief description of it that includes its clean energy investments (Article, Crosstabs)
- Pew - Of all the issues that the president and Congress could prioritize this year, climate and the environment are the most polarized by partisanship (Article, Full Report, Topline, Data Tables)
- The Economist + YouGov - Roughly half of Americans say that they’ve personally felt the impacts of climate change, and most expect to in the future (Topline, Crosstabs)
- The environment is now a bedrock priority for Democratic voters. We saw climate change and the environment consistently rank among the very top issue priorities for Democratic voters in 2022. Post-election surveys - including a December survey from AP-NORC and a new report from Pew this week - confirm that the environment is now one of the core issue areas that unite the party, joining long-time Democratic priorities like health care and Medicare, ahead of a potentially competitive presidential primary.
- We’ve come a long way in increasing public recognition about the current impacts of climate change, but still need to bring it into focus as an urgent, here-and-now issue. The Economist and YouGov find that about half of Americans recognize that they’ve personally been impacted by climate change. Surveys over the past decade show that Americans are increasingly acknowledging the impacts of climate change in the United States, and it’s critical to accelerate public awareness of the present-day impacts of climate change in order to create a greater sense of public urgency around the issue.
- “Winning the win” on the IRA is more a matter of providing basic education about the legislation than persuasion, as people are already inclined to support it. New polling from Data for Progress finds once again that voters overwhelmingly support the IRA when they’re exposed to even a brief description of it. However, there’s a long way to go in establishing even basic awareness about what’s in the legislation, including its historic investments in clean energy. We expect to see more polling in the coming weeks about the IRA to help hone messaging on the implementation of the legislation, but advocates should feel assured that anything they’re doing to raise public awareness about the IRA is likely helping to build support for it at the same time.
GOOD DATA POINTS TO HIGHLIGHT
- [Inflation Reduction Act] Voters support the Inflation Reduction Act by a 68%-25% margin after reading a short description that includes its investments in clean energy [Data for Progress]
- [Personal Climate Impacts] 59% of Americans recognize that they will personally feel the effects of climate change in their lifetimes, including 48% who say that they’ve already felt the effects [The Economist + YouGov]
- [Climate Causes] 51% of Americans recognize that the world’s climate is changing as a result of human activity, compared to 30% who say that the world’s climate is changing naturally and just 7% who deny that it’s changing at all [The Economist + YouGov]
- [Issue Priority] More Americans name climate change and the environment as the single “most important issue” to them than any other issue aside from inflation/prices, health care, and the economy/jobs [The Economist + YouGov]
Data for Progress
We’re always looking for concise descriptions of the IRA that appeal to voters, especially when those descriptions lean into the legislation’s clean energy investments.
And Data for Progress has clearly identified an appealing description here, finding that voters support the IRA by a resounding 68%-25% margin after reading the following description:
“The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 invests over $430 billion in clean energy and Affordable Care Act healthcare premiums. It also allows Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices and pays down the national debt by $300 billion.”
Even Republican voters are slightly more likely to support than oppose the IRA (47% support / 41% oppose) after reading this description of it. Additionally, this new Data for Progress polling provides further indication that Republican voters may be warming more to the IRA now that election season is behind us.
A November poll from Climate Power and Data for Progress used similar but not identical language to describe the IRA and found that Republican voters opposed it by an eight-point margin (43% support / 51% oppose), so the six-point margin of support that Data for Progress finds among Republican voters now (47% support / 41% oppose) suggests that their attitudes about the IRA have improved in the last few months.
Similarly, two polls by Navigator in January found that Republican voters were close to split in their attitudes about the IRA (41% support / 46% oppose in late January and 41% support / 44% oppose in early January) after opposing it by a 16-point margin in late October (37% support / 53% oppose).
Pew’s annual survey of the nation’s biggest policy priorities finds that the economy continues to be Americans’ dominant issue concern, while Democrats and Republicans differ widely in their prioritization of climate change and the environment.
Overall, three-quarters of Americans (75%) agree that strengthening the economy should be a “top priority” for the president and Congress to address this year. No other issue polls above 60% as a “top” priority, and “protecting the environment” (44%) and “dealing with climate change” (37%) rank in the middle-to-lower end of the 21 priorities that the survey asked about.
The relatively low rankings for climate and the environment as priorities here are largely because these issues spark the highest levels of disagreement between Democratic and Republican partisans.
Self-identified Democrats are 47 points more likely to name “protecting the environment” as a top priority (67%) than Republicans (20%), and 46 points more likely to name “dealing with global climate change” (59%) as a top priority than Republicans (13%).
These are the largest partisan gaps for any issues in the survey, followed by “addressing issues around race” (36 points more prioritized by Democrats), “dealing with immigration” (33 points more prioritized by Republicans), “strengthening the military” (32 points more prioritized by Republicans), and “dealing with the problems of poor people” (31 points more prioritized by Democrats).
Looking at the data among self-identified Democrats, it is clear that protecting the environment is a bedrock priority for Democrats that unites them about as much as the economy, health care, and Medicare.
Here are the top-ranking priorities for Democrats, ranked by the percentages of self-identified Democrats who name each as a “top priority” for Biden and Congress this year:
- Reducing health care costs - 71%
- Strengthening the economy - 68%
- Making Medicare financially sound - 68%
- Protecting the environment - 67%
- Improving education - 62%
- Dealing with the problems of poor people - 61%
- Dealing with global climate change - 59%
It’s worth noting here that the environment only became a top-tier priority for Democrats over the last few years. As recently as 2016, Pew found that “protecting the environment” was only a mid-tier priority for Democrats (61% “top priority”) and ranked well below education (76%) and terrorism (73%).
Democratic voters’ priorities changed significantly during the Trump presidency, with “protecting the environment” surging to the very top of Democrats’ priority list (81% “top priority”) when Pew ran this survey in 2018.
While the partisan polarization around climate and the environment is discouraging to see, the good news here is that the environment has continued to be a core Democratic priority since President Biden took office.
The new Pew survey further disaggregates Democratic respondents by race, and interestingly finds that Black and Hispanic Democrats tend to name environmental protection as a higher priority than climate change while white Democrats rank these two priorities about equally.
White Democrats are only four points more likely to prioritize environmental protection (68%) than climate change (64%), while Black Democrats are 12 points more likely to prioritize environmental protection (64%) than climate change (52%) and Hispanic Democrats are 10 points more likely to prioritize environmental protection (66%) than climate change (46%).
The Economist + YouGov
The Economist and YouGov find that roughly half of Americans recognize that climate change is mostly human-caused and say that they personally have been impacted by it. These attitudes are generally stable from when The Economist and YouGov last asked these questions in October.
On the topic of human-caused climate change, 51% of Americans recognize that the world’s climate is changing mostly due to human activities (down slightly from 55% in October). Meanwhile, 30% say that the world’s climate is changing naturally and only 7% deny that climate change is happening at all.
In terms of personal impacts, 48% say that they have personally felt the effects of climate change (essentially unchanged from 47% in October) and an additional 11% say that they haven’t felt the effects yet but expect to in their lifetimes.
For context, while the percentage of Americans who recognize that they’ve been personally impacted by climate change has been hanging stubbornly around 50% for some time now, beliefs that climate change is presently harming Americans have risen steadily in recent years.
Per a new paper summarized by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication last week, the belief that Americans will be harmed by climate change was fairly uncommon among the general public until the mid-2010s but is now the majority viewpoint across the country. This is important progress, as the sense that climate change is a tangible threat to everyday Americans is critical to increasing urgency around the issue and making it more of a here-and-now policy priority for the American public.
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