This post includes climate and environment headlines, data points, and key takeaways from recent public polls - including new polling on conservation, climate, and energy issues in Western states + new national polling on the Inflation Reduction Act + state-level polling in Minnesota about the state’s new clean energy bill and other environmental priorities.
- Colorado College Conservation in the West Poll - Western voters rank water issues among the biggest problems in their states; voters across party lines overwhelmingly support conservation proposals including 30x30 and the establishment of more national monuments (Website including links to press release, deck, toplines, and additional reports by topic, state, and audience)
- Navigator - Support for the Inflation Reduction Act remains high, with Republican voters no longer opposing it (Release, Deck)
- [MN] Evergreen Action + Data for Progress - Majorities of Minnesota voters want the state to transition to 100% carbon-free energy and to require zero emissions in new buildings (Article, Topline)
- Water concerns are top-of-mind for voters in Western states. Colorado College’s latest “Conservation in the West” poll finds that Western voters rank water availability as one of the biggest problems in their states, just below the cost of living. Western voters are especially concerned about protecting sources of drinking water, and are accordingly very eager to hear about policies that will help conserve clean water sources and protect them from pollution.
- Arguments to hold polluters accountable for the damage they do are extremely potent. The Conservation in the West poll finds that voters nearly unanimously agree that oil and gas companies should have to pay for clean-up and restoration after they drill. The oil and gas industry is less popular with the public than any other major U.S. industry, and Americans are accordingly drawn to “polluters pay” policies and to messaging that uses oil and gas companies as a foil.
- Conservation remains a bipartisan priority. The Conservation in the West poll finds widespread support throughout the electorate for conservation measures, including the 30x30 goal and the establishment of new national monuments. Compared to other environmental-related topics such as climate action and clean energy development, conservation is by far the least politically polarizing.
GOOD DATA POINTS TO HIGHLIGHT
- [Inflation Reduction Act] Voters support the Inflation Reduction Act by a greater than three-to-one margin (66%-21%) after reading a brief, one-sentence description of it [Navigator]
- [West + Fossil Fuels] 91% of voters in Western states support requiring that oil and gas companies, rather than federal and state governments, pay for all of the clean-up and land restoration costs after drilling is finished [Colorado College]
- [West + Fossil Fuels] 91% of voters in Western states support requiring oil and gas companies to use updated equipment and technology to prevent leaks of methane gas and other pollution into the air [Colorado College]
- [West + Conservation] 82% of voters in Western States support the 30x30 goal of conserving thirty percent of America’s lands, inland waters, and ocean areas by 2030 [Colorado College]
- [West + Clean Energy] 67% of voters in Western States support transitioning to one hundred percent of our energy being produced from clean, renewable sources like solar and wind over the next ten to fifteen years [Colorado College]
- [West + Clean Energy] By a two-to-one margin, Western State voters say that reducing the need for more coal, oil and gas by expanding the use of clean, renewable domestic energy (65%) should be a higher priority for meeting America’s energy needs than drilling and digging for more coal, oil, and gas wherever we can find it in the U.S. (32%) [Colorado College]
- [Minnesota] 57% of Minnesota voters support Minnesota moving to generate 100 percent of its energy from carbon-free energy sources by 2040 [Evergreen Action + Data for Progress]
- [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]
Colorado College Conservation in the West Poll
Western voters rank water issues among the biggest problems in their states; voters across party lines overwhelmingly support conservation proposals including 30x30 and the establishment of more national monuments (Website including links to press release, deck, toplines, and additional reports by topic, state, and audience)
The latest edition of Colorado College’s annual “Conservation in the West Poll” surveyed voters across eight states (AZ, CO, ID, MT, NV, NM, UT, & WY) and found that water issues rank among the most pressing concerns for Western voters.
Nearly two in five (39%) rank the low level of water in rivers as an “extremely” serious problem in their state, more than any other issue in the survey aside from the rising cost of living (46%). Western voters additionally rate drought (35% “extremely serious problem”) and inadequate water supplies (34%) among the most important issues facing their states, as Western voters rank each of these water-related issues as even more serious problems than the price of gasoline (31%).
Accordingly, every single water conservation proposal that the survey asked about attracts majority support - even proposals to prohibit grass lawns or incentivize alternatives. Proposals to invest in water infrastructure, to increase the use of recycled water, and to take water availability into account before approving new residential developments are especially popular:
- 95% support investing in water infrastructure to reduce leaks and waste
- 88% support increasing the use of recycled water for homes and businesses
- 87% support requiring local developments to determine whether there is enough water available before approving new residential development projects
- 80% support providing financial incentives to homeowners and businesses to replace lawns and grassy areas with water-saving landscaping
- 62% support prohibiting grass lawns at new developments and homes
- 54% support providing financial incentives to farmers to temporarily take land out of production during severe water shortages
Drilling down on the issue of water availability, the poll finds that protecting sources of drinking water is by far the strongest rationale for good conservation policy. When asked about different possible reasons to conserve lands, waters, and wildlife habitats, 86% of Western State voters say that protecting sources of drinking water is a “very important” reason for conservation efforts.
Majorities also agree that ensuring healthier forests (69%), helping threatened wildlife (63%), conserving wildlife habitat and migration routes (63%), and providing opportunities for children to explore and learn about nature (62%) are all “very important” reasons to undertake conservation efforts.
In general, the poll confirms that policies to protect public lands and waters are enormously popular in Western States - including among conservative voters:
- 84% of Western voters, including 73% of conservative Republicans, support Presidents continuing to use their ability to protect existing public lands as national monuments
- 82% of Western voters, including 68% of conservative Republicans, support the 30x30 goal of conserving thirty percent of land, inland waters, and ocean areas in America by the year 2030
The importance of conservation also comes across in Western voters’ prioritization of public lands and waters over fossil fuel extraction. By a 68%-26% margin, Western voters would prefer that their representatives in Congress focus on “ensuring we protect sources of clean water, our air quality, and wildlife habitat while providing opportunities to visit and recreate on our national public lands” rather than focus on “ensuring we produce more domestic energy by maximizing the amount of national public lands available for responsible oil and gas drilling and mining.”
The poll also finds broad support for the clean energy transition in Western States. By a two-to-one margin (65%-32%), Western voters say that “reducing our need for more coal, oil and gas by expanding our use of clean, renewable energy that can be generated in the U.S.” should be a higher priority for meeting America’s energy needs than “drilling and digging for more coal, oil and gas wherever we can find it in the U.S.”
Additionally, two-thirds of Western voters (67%) support gradually transitioning to producing 100% of our energy from clean, renewable sources like solar and wind over the next ten to fifteen years.
Western voters also overwhelmingly support proposals to hold oil and gas companies accountable for the damage they cause, continuing a common trend we’ve been seeing as oil and gas companies have become deeply unpopular with the public:
- 91% support requiring oil and gas companies, rather than federal and state governments, to pay for all of the clean-up and land restoration costs after drilling is finished
- 91% support requiring oil and gas companies to use updated equipment and technology to prevent leaks of methane gas and other pollution into the air
The poll additionally finds that justice-oriented proposals focused on equitable access to parks and natural areas and greater policy input for Native American tribes are overwhelmingly popular:
- 85% support ensuring that Native American tribes have greater input into decisions made about areas within national public lands that contain sites sacred or culturally important to their tribe
- 76% support directing funding to ensure adequate access to parks and natural areas for lower-income people and communities of color that have disproportionately lacked them
Navigator provides yet more evidence of the Inflation Reduction Act’s enduring popularity, as voters support the legislation by a greater than three-to-one margin (66% support / 21% oppose) when provided with the description below:
“As you may know, Biden and Democrats’ legislation that was passed by Congress is called the Inflation Reduction Act, which will give Medicare the power to negotiate lower drug prices, bring down health insurance premiums, and invest in clean energy like wind and solar power.”
The poll further finds that Republican voters are now split in their attitudes about the IRA (42% support / 41% oppose) and have gradually warmed to it over time. Navigator’s polling in late October found that Republican voters opposed the IRA by a margin of 16 points (37% support / 53% oppose) when presented with the same description.
Polling has consistently shown that the main components of the IRA are all quite popular, and this positive trend among Republican voters is further proof of the legislation’s broad appeal. With the midterms behind us now, it appears that Republican voters are becoming less inclined to reject the IRA on partisan grounds and more open to assessing the legislation on its merits.
[MN] Evergreen Action + Data for Progress
This timely state-level polling from Evergreen Action and Data for Progress finds that Minnesota voters are on board with the historic climate bill that Governor Tim Walz signed into law this month.
By a 17-point margin (57% support / 40% oppose), Minnesotans support the state moving to generate 100 percent of its energy from carbon-free energy sources by 2040.
The poll also finds that Minnesota voters widely support additional actions at the state level to reduce pollution and combat climate change:
- 80% support a new state program that would give Minnesota cities funding to invest in composting, re-use, and other waste strategies that don’t require building new landfills or incinerators
- 64% support establishing a Minnesota Green Bank to invest in statewide clean jobs training and projects to modernize water infrastructure, build clean energy projects, and prepare communities for extreme weather events
- 62% support the state government considering the full context of a community’s history facing air pollution when issuing air quality permits for new projects in that community
- 60% support updating Minnesota’s building codes so that all new buildings have zero emissions by 2036
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