This post includes climate and environment headlines, data points, and key takeaways from recent public polls - including new national polling on the Inflation Reduction Act, national polling on the Farm Bill, polling in Michigan about climate action at the state level, and a new survey of U.S. mayors about climate policy.
- Navigator - Voters continue to support the Inflation Reduction Act by wide margins when they learn about it, but only around half of voters have heard much about it (Release, Deck, Topline)
- Walton Family Foundation + Morning Consult - Voters want the Farm Bill reauthorized with more environmental protections and incentives for sustainability (Release, Website, Report, Memo)
- [Michigan] EDF Action - Michigan voters are eager for climate action at the state level, and overwhelmingly support policies to guarantee clean water and protect communities of color (Release, Memo)
- [Mayors] Boston University Menino Survey of Mayors - Mayors across the country are worried about climate impacts in their cities and agree that cities have a major role to play in addressing the climate crisis, but they are reluctant to put bans or restrictions on individual behaviors (Release, Report)
- Voters want the Farm Bill reauthorization to include climate considerations. With the reauthorization of the Farm Bill near the top of the new Congress’s to-do list this year, newly released polling from The Walton Family Foundation and Morning Consult finds that voters resist the notion that agricultural policy and climate policy should be separated. There is overwhelming public agreement that the government should encourage farmers to use climate-friendly practices, and specific proposals to financially incentivize sustainable farming and to help farmers understand how to move to more climate-friendly practices garner clear majority support.
- Clean water continues to be the public’s preeminent environmental priority. Polls consistently show that clean water is the top-ranking environmental priority for the American public, even ahead of clean air, and polls from The Walton Family Foundation/Morning Consult and EDF Action reaffirm the widespread salience of protecting our water. EDF Action finds that nine in ten Michigan voters support policies to guarantee clean drinking water (especially in the communities most impacted by unsafe drinking water in the past), and nearly nine in ten also agree that state policymakers need to do more to protect Michigan’s water from pollution and toxic chemicals like PFAS. Meanwhile, The Walton Family Foundation and Morning Consult find that over four in five voters nationwide say that farmers have a responsibility to stop pollutants from reaching U.S. waterways.
- The public remains broadly uninformed about the Inflation Reduction Act - but overwhelmingly supportive of it when they hear about it. Polls have long shown that roughly two-thirds of the public support the Inflation Reduction Act when they learn basic information about it, and new polling from Navigator further demonstrates that trend as they find that 66% of voters support the bill after reading a short, one-sentence description of it. However, it’s important for advocates not to take this support for granted, as Navigator also finds that nearly half of voters haven’t heard much or anything about the bill.
GOOD DATA POINTS TO HIGHLIGHT
- [Inflation Reduction Act] Voters support the Inflation Reduction Act by a 43-point margin (66% support / 23% oppose) after reading a brief, one-sentence description of it [Navigator]
- [Agriculture] 83% of voters agree that farmers have a responsibility to reduce harmful pollutants reaching U.S. rivers, lakes, and oceans [Walton Family Foundation + Morning Consult]
- [Agriculture] 76% of voters agree that the government should encourage farmers to use climate-friendly practices [Walton Family Foundation + Morning Consult]
- [Farm Bill] 76% of voters support increasing the total farm subsidies or aid that farmers can receive as part of the Farm Bill reauthorization if they implement more sustainable practices [Walton Family Foundation + Morning Consult]
- [Farm Bill] 72% of voters support a federal research program as part of the Farm Bill reauthorization to help farmers understand how to move to more climate-friendly farming practices [Walton Family Foundation + Morning Consult]
- [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]
- [Michigan] 65% of Michigan voters agree that state policymakers should support policies that encourage more use of clean energy like wind and solar [EDF Action]
- [Michigan] 62% of Michigan voters agree that state policymakers need to do more to combat climate change [EDF Action]
- [Michigan] 61% of Michigan voters support a limit on carbon emissions in Michigan that would decline over time, reaching a 50% net reduction in emissions by 2030 and net zero emissions by 2050 [EDF Action]
The latest polling from Navigator reinforces a truism about the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA): when voters learn basics about what’s in the bill, they support it by large margins.
Here, voters support the legislation by a 43-point margin (66% support / 23% oppose) after reading the following description of it:
“As you may know, Biden and Democrats' new legislation that has been 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.”
Navigator finds that support for the IRA has increased slightly since they asked about the bill in November (43-point margin in favor, up from a 40-point margin in favor in November). The primary driver of this shift appears to be a softening of opposition among Republicans (three-point margin of opposition, down from a 12-point margin of opposition in November).
The intuitive explanation here would be that Republican partisans are somewhat more willing to acknowledge the benefits of the IRA (and therefore give credit to Biden/Democrats) now that we’re no longer in an election year, but we need to see if this finding holds true in other polling before drawing any firm conclusions.
Navigator also finds that the share of the electorate that has heard at least “some” about the IRA (53%) hasn’t changed much since November (51%), confirming that at least half of the public still hasn’t really been informed about it. Accordingly, organizations that are communicating about the IRA should continue to operate under the assumption that general audiences have little to no real knowledge of it.
Walton Family Foundation + Morning Consult
This polling was conducted in July, and we’re seeing it rolled out now as Congress gears up for negotiations over the Farm Bill.
The poll finds that voters overwhelmingly agree that it’s a priority for Congress to reauthorize the Farm Bill (82%), and large majorities also agree that the Farm Bill should be reauthorized with measures to increase sustainability and combat climate change. When the following policies are presented as possible elements of the reauthorized Farm Bill, majorities of voters support each one:
- 80% support crop insurance discounts to farmers who implement practices to conserve water and protect our land
- 76% support increasing the total farm subsidies or aid that farmers can receive if they implement more sustainable practices
- 76% support requiring farmers to implement practices that protect our land, water and health
- 74% support collecting more information to help food companies and consumers understand the environmental impact of food
- 72% support creating a federal research program to help farmers understand how to move to more climate-friendly farming practices
Additionally, voters overwhelmingly agree with notions that the government should encourage climate-friendly farming practices and that farmers have a responsibility to reduce the pollution of waterways:
- 83% agree that farmers have a responsibility to reduce harmful pollutants reaching U.S. rivers, lakes, and oceans (including 86% of Democrats, 82% of independents, and 81% of Republicans)
- 76% agree that the government should encourage farmers to use climate-friendly practices
[Michigan] EDF Action
This newly released pre-election poll finds that Michigan voters are on board with the kind of bold climate action laid out in Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s MI Healthy Climate Plan.
Climate action and clean energy are broadly popular in the state:
- 76% have favorable attitudes about clean energy
- 65% agree that Michigan policymakers should support policies that encourage more use of clean energy like wind and solar
- 62% agree that Michigan policymakers need to do more to combat climate change
Accordingly, specific policies to boost clean energy and combat climate pollution earn majority support:
- 70% support financial incentives for farmers and forest managers to change their practices in ways that allow Michigan lands and forests to capture more carbon and reduce the impacts of climate change
- 61% support Michigan joining other states in the Midwest in an effort to combat climate change by capping carbon emissions from power plants and requiring power plants to pay for the carbon emissions they emit
- 61% support placing a limit on the total carbon emissions in Michigan that would decline over time, reaching a 50% reduction in emissions by 2030 and net zero emissions by 2050
- 60% support requiring Michigan utilities to get 60% of their electricity from clean energy sources like wind and solar by the year 2030
Crucially, public support for the clean energy transition in Michigan is buoyed by notions that climate change is already impacting Michigan communities and that the clean energy transition will have positive impacts for the economy and consumers:
- 64% agree that using more clean energy like wind and solar would create quality jobs and strengthen Michigan’s economy
- 64% agree that using more clean energy like wind and solar would save Michigan families money
- 55% agree that climate change is having a serious impact in their community
Consistent with other environmental polling, EDF Action’s polling in Michigan finds that clean water protections are a universally-shared priority:
- 91% agree that Michigan policymakers should support policies that guarantee clean drinking water to all communities, particularly those most impacted by unsafe drinking water from pollution and lead pipes
- 89% agree that Michigan policymakers need to do more to protect our water from pollution and toxic chemicals like PFAS
And in a state where, like many places, clean water and environmental justice are inextricably linked, the poll additionally finds that voters widely agree on the importance of devoting special focus in the clean energy transition to communities that have historically borne the brunt of pollution:
- 79% agree that, as we move towards clean energy, we should make sure that we protect communities most impacted by harmful air pollution, including Black and Hispanic communities
- 69% support prioritizing clean energy investments in communities that suffer from disproportionate amounts of pollution
[Mayors] Boston University Menino Survey of Mayors
Mayors across the country are worried about climate impacts in their cities and agree that cities have a major role to play in addressing the climate crisis, but they are reluctant to put bans or restrictions on individual behaviors (Release, Report)
This survey draws on responses from 118 of the 501 mayors governing U.S. cities with populations greater than 75,000. While the small sample makes the results more qualitative than a typical poll, they still provide a rare level of insight into the beliefs and motivations of policymakers.
The sample also includes a good amount of partisan diversity: Democratic mayors make up 64% of respondents, Republican mayors make up 18%, and mayors with no party affiliation also make up 18%.
The survey finds that mayors overwhelmingly acknowledge human-caused climate change, regardless of their party affiliation: 90% agree that increases in the Earth’s temperature over the last century are due more to the effects of human activities than natural changes, including 95% of Democratic mayors and 71% of Republican mayors.
Most mayors also worry about climate change impacting their cities, with majorities saying they worry about drought (60%), extreme heat (58%), flooding (57%), and air pollution (56%) in their cities.
Concerns about specific climate impacts naturally vary by geography, with mayors in the Western U.S. most concerned about drought (80%) and fires (78%), mayors in the Midwest (76%) and South (68%) most concerned about flooding, and mayors in the Northeast most concerned about extreme heat (79%).
Consistent with their concerns about climate impacts, mayors feel that cities have a major role to play in combating climate change: nearly three-quarters (73%) agree that cities should “play a strong role in reducing the effects of climate change, even if it means sacrificing revenues and/or expending financial resources.”
Most mayors (55%) also agree that “[their] city’s residents will have to make real sacrifices” in order for their city to make real progress on climate issues. However, when it comes to the specific levers that cities can use to reduce climate pollution, there’s a clear preference among mayors to exert their influence over building codes and zoning policy than to restrict personal choices or consumer behaviors.
When asked to choose the two “most powerful tools” their city government can use that relate to climate change, mayors are most likely to name their influence over building codes (55%) and influence over zoning (38%). Relatively fewer cite their ability to persuade the public (25%), influence over city energy procurement (21%), control over streets and sidewalks (14%), ability to subsidize behaviors (11%), or influence over other city procurement (9%). Just 8% count their authority to ban or limit behaviors among their most powerful tools to deal with climate change.
And when it comes to specific policies to reduce emissions, more than three-quarters of mayors say they support systemic changes such as replacing municipal vehicles with more fuel efficient versions, requiring that new construction be solar-ready, and procuring more clean electricity through community choice aggregation. Most mayors are also in favor of using local government money to subsidize private home energy upgrades.
However, mayors are relatively less likely to support policies that target households or individuals. Only around half of mayors say they support restrictions on gas or oil heat in new private construction or restrictions on gas powered lawn tools, and most do not support actions to make driving more expensive (e.g., congestion fees or parking prices) or restrictions on gas stoves in private homes.
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