This post includes climate and environment headlines, data points, and key takeaways from recent public polls - including new polling about West Virginia vs. EPA and the EPA’s authority, a survey of climate attitudes among Facebook users across 192 countries and territories, and new state-level polling in Pennsylvania about climate change and the state’s fracking industry.
- Economist + YouGov - Most Americans support EPA regulations to protect the environment “even if they might hurt individual industries”; few knew that the Supreme Court would be deciding a case on the topic (Topline, Crosstabs)
- Yale Program on Climate Change Communication (YPCCC) + Meta - Large majorities of Facebook users in each of 192 countries and territories surveyed worldwide recognize that climate change is happening, and majorities in nearly every location see it as a threat to where they live (Summary, Report)
- Muhlenberg College (Pennsylvania) - A record-high percentage of Pennsylvanians (75%) say there is “solid evidence” of global warming; state residents are divided on fracking (Release)
- CNN - Partisanship is making polling Americans more complicated (Article)
GOOD DATA POINTS TO HIGHLIGHT
[National] The majority of Americans (55%) believe that the EPA should be able to write regulations to protect the environment “even if they might hurt individual industries” [Economist + YouGov]
[National] More Americans say that climate change and the environment is the single “most important issue” to them than any other issue besides jobs and the economy [Economist + YouGov]
[Pennsylvania] 75% of Pennsylvanians believe that there is “solid evidence” for global warming [Muhlenberg]
[Pennsylvania] 67% of Pennsylvanians agree that natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania poses a “major risk” to the state’s water resources [Muhlenberg]
[Pennsylvania] 53% of Pennsylvanians believe that global warming is a “very serious” problem [Muhlenberg]
Economist + YouGov
Most Americans support EPA regulations to protect the environment “even if they might hurt individual industries”; few knew that the Supreme Court would be deciding a case on the topic (Topline, Crosstabs)
The latest Economist/YouGov poll, fielded ahead of the Supreme Court decision on West Virginia vs. EPA, found that just 7% of Americans had been hearing “a lot” about a Supreme Court case regarding the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gasses. The majority of respondents (65%) said that they’d heard “nothing at all” about the case.
The poll also finds that most Americans agree (55% agree / 45% disagree) with the principle that the EPA “should be able to write regulations to protect the environment even if they might hurt individual industries.”
Other polls show that the more specific issue in question in West Virginia vs. EPA - the ability for the federal government to regulate air pollution from power plants - is more popular.
Recent polling by Evergreen Action and Data for Progress found that likely voters widely support the EPA being allowed to “regulate air pollution” from power plants (62% support / 28% oppose) after respondents read arguments for and against the EPA’s authority to regulate power plants’ pollution.
Additionally, a recent poll from NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Harvard University found that 78% of Americans support “the federal government requiring carbon emissions reductions from power plants.”
Taken together, these polls indicate that everyday Americans don’t have particularly strong preferences around EPA authority but do widely agree with the goal of reducing power plant pollution. In public communications about West Virginia vs. EPA, therefore, it will benefit advocates to make sure the substantive goals in question - reducing air pollution from power plants and combating climate change - don’t get obscured in arguments over process.
Yale Program on Climate Change Communication (YPCCC) + Meta
Large majorities of Facebook users across 192 countries and territories worldwide recognize that climate change is happening, and majorities in nearly every location see it as a threat to their country or territory (Summary, Report)
This new survey of over 100,000 Facebook users across the globe finds overwhelming consensus that climate change is happening and widespread concern over the issue. For the purposes of analysis, the YPCCC and Meta broke these geographies down into 110 distinct “areas” (including 107 individual countries or territories, plus three additional geographic groups that comprise 81 additional countries and territories).
Pulling some of the notable findings from the report around climate change recognition, concern, and the perceived threats it poses in each location (emphasis added in bold):
“The great majority of respondents in all 110 surveyed areas say that they think climate change is happening. This includes nine in ten or more respondents in 21 countries and territories, including Hungary (96%), Portugal (95%), and Costa Rica (94%). The percentage is lowest, but still high, in Laos (67%), Haiti (67%), and Bangladesh (70%).
A majority of respondents in nearly every area surveyed (108 out of 110) say they are “very” or “somewhat” worried about climate change. More than nine in ten respondents in Mexico (95%), Portugal (93%), Chile (93%), Puerto Rico (92%), Costa Rica (92%), Ecuador (91%), Panama (91%), Peru (91%), and Colombia (91%) say they are worried. In contrast, only about one in three respondents in Yemen (32%) and just under half of respondents in Jordan (48%) say they are worried about climate change.
A majority of respondents in all but one surveyed area (109 out of 110) think climate change is either a “very serious” or “somewhat serious” threat to the people in their country or territory over the next 20 years. This ranges from nine in ten or more respondents in Malawi (93%), Portugal (92%), Mexico (92%), Costa Rica (91%), Chile (91%), and Sri Lanka (90%), to about four in ten respondents in Yemen (42%) and just over half of respondents in Jordan (53%). Additionally, majorities in 47 out of 110 areas say that climate change is a “very serious” threat.”
Muhlenberg College (Pennsylvania)
A record-high percentage of Pennsylvanians (75%) say there is “solid evidence” of global warming; Pennsylvanians are divided on fracking and the long-term impacts of gas drilling in the state (Release)
The 75% of Pennsylvanians who agree that there is “solid evidence” of global warming marks a new high in Muhlenberg College’s 15 years of tracking this question, and the poll’s finding that 77% of Pennsylvanians view global warming as a “serious problem” (including 53% who rate it as “very serious”) further demonstrates a clear statewide consensus around the reality and risks of climate change.
The poll also finds that Pennsylvanians are feeling cross-pressured on the issue of fracked gas, as large majorities believe both that gas drilling is important to the state’s economy (86%) and that it poses a major risk to the state’s water resources (67%).
Pennsylvanians are divided on fracking in general, as 48% support and 44% oppose the extraction of gas from shale deposits in the state. State residents have similarly mixed attitudes as to whether gas drilling will provide more benefits (44%) or more problems (40%) for Pennsylvania in the future.
When asked to choose from several options as to what the primary benefit of fracking in the United States is, Pennsylvanians gravitate most toward rationales that fracking “promotes energy independence by increasing the supply of of fossil fuels extracted in the United States” (28%) and that it “provides an economic benefit by stimulating investments and creating jobs” (22%). Interestingly, just 12% chose the rationale that it “reduces energy costs for consumers and industries” as the top benefit of fracking - indicating that fossil fuel companies’ efforts to promote fracked gas as a “cheap” energy source may not be breaking through to the public.
When asked an open-ended question about the primary risks of fracking in Pennsylvania, meanwhile, residents are most likely to name water contamination (26%) and general environmental damage (14%).
How partisanship is making polling Americans more complicated (Article)
This article by Ariel Edwards-Levy isn’t about environmental polling per se, but is well worth reading if you utilize polling in your work or personal advocacy.
Edwards-Levy details how “partisan responding” (respondents treating polls as a way to express their loyalty to the political party they support, including on questions that aren’t overtly political in nature) is making it more difficult to interpret public opinion polls in today’s polarized political climate. Some of the most common evidence for this phenomenon is how partisans tend to give more positive ratings of the country’s economic situation, and even their own financial situations, when their party holds the presidency.
Partisan responding is also widespread in polling on energy and environmental issues. Self-identified Republicans, for example, have been much more likely than Democrats to express concern about the country’s energy situation since President Biden took office and much less likely than Democrats to report direct experience with extreme weather events.