This post includes climate and environment headlines, data points, and key takeaways from recent public polls - including new national polling on climate change, plastic pollution, and the seafood industry as well as new state polling in Texas about the state’s energy policies.
- POLITICO + Morning Consult - Voters view climate change as a major threat to the country over the next 10 years (Topline, Crosstabs)
- World Wildlife Fund - Americans support a wide range of policies to address plastic waste; the public agrees on the need to reduce reliance on plastic but many are confused and skeptical about recycling options (Report)
- Walton Family Foundation + Morning Consult - Most Americans consider sustainability an important factor when purchasing meat or seafood, and a clear majority support increasing seafood traceability (Article, Memo)
- Data for Progress (Texas) - Texas voters view the clean energy transition as a net positive for the state economy, and most want to see their state leadership strengthen regulations on utilities and fossil fuel companies (Article, Topline)
GOOD DATA POINTS TO HIGHLIGHT
86% of Americans agree that the recycling system for plastic in the United States needs improvement [World Wildlife Fund]
83% of American support a law that would phase out certain single-use plastic products that are not recyclable [World Wildlife Fund]
78% of Americans would prefer plastic products that they can reuse rather than needing to dispose of them [World Wildlife Fund]
75% of Americans would prefer to buy things with minimal plastic packaging [World Wildlife Fund]
72% of Americans support increasing the traceability of seafood [Walton Family Foundation + Morning Consult]
71% of voters recognize climate change as a “critical” or “important” threat to the United States in the next 10 years [POLITICO + Morning Consult]
70% of American seafood and meat consumers say that sustainability is an important consideration for them when purchasing meat or seafood [Walton Family Foundation + Morning Consult]
More Americans say that climate change and the environment is the single most important issue to them than any other issue aside from the economy, health care, and immigration [Economist + YouGov]
POLITICO + Morning Consult
POLITICO and Morning Consult surveyed voters about a variety of potential threats to the “vital interests of the United States” in the next ten years, and found that 44% rate climate change as a “critical threat” - the strongest response option provided. An additional 27% rate climate change as an “important but not critical threat,” while 22% say it is “not an important threat at all.”
For context, of the twelve potential threats that the survey asked about, climate change ranked roughly on par with items such as terrorist groups in foreign countries (which 45% rate as a “critical threat”), illegal immigration (44%), Islamist extremism (42%), and white nationalism (40%).
The only threats that respondents rated as significantly more serious than climate change are economic collapse (66%), cyberattacks against the country (63%), and terrorism in the United States (61%).
World Wildlife Fund
Americans support a wide range of policies to address plastic waste; the public agrees on the need to reduce reliance on plastic but many are confused and skeptical about recycling options (Report)
This newly released survey from the World Wildlife Fund finds that Americans are widely concerned about the amount of plastic waste that the country generates. Overwhelming majorities agree with each of the following statements:
The recycling system for plastic in the United States needs improvement (86% agree)
We need to change our economy from one that throws things away to one that emphasizes reuse and recycling (84%)
The United States needs to reduce our reliance on plastic (74%)
The survey also shows that Americans would prefer to make businesses more accountable for plastic waste instead of shifting responsibility to consumers. Americans are more likely to agree that “plastic pollution would not be a problem if businesses used packaging that could be collected and used again” (71%) than to agree that “plastic pollution would not be a problem if people recycled more” (57%). Additionally, solutions that limit the amount of single-use plastic that makes it into consumers’ hands are popular: 78% say they would “prefer plastic products that [they] can reuse rather than needing to dispose of them,” and 75% say they would “prefer to buy things with minimal plastic packaging.”
At the consumer level, both confusion about recycling options and a lack of self-efficacy are clear obstacles to individuals’ recycling behavior. Just over three-quarters of Americans agree that they “want to recycle more” of their plastic waste (76%), but majorities also agree with each of the following statements:
So many things are made out of plastic or come in plastic packaging, there is no way I could avoid plastic even if I wanted to (77% agree)
I worry that some or all of the plastic material I recycle will end up in the landfill (66%)
I worry that some or all of the plastic material I recycle will end up in the ocean (63%)
I worry my actions will not make an impact on the overall amount of plastic waste (54%)
I am confused by the different types of plastics and how to recycle them (53%)
At the policy level, the World Wildlife Fund finds that a rising share of Americans want Congress to prioritize the plastic waste problem. The percentage who rank addressing pollution from plastic waste as a top-five priority for Congress has seen a considerable increase, from 16% in a 2020 survey to 23% in this latest survey.
Additionally, the new survey finds that there is broad support for a variety of proposals that would address the plastic waste problem. This includes overwhelming majority support for each of the following proposals:
Receiving a 10-cent credit for using a reusable shopping bag (90% support)
A law requiring new plastic to contain at least some material from old plastic that has been recycled (88%)
A law that requires that plastic waste can only be shipped to countries that are verified to be able to appropriately handle this waste (84%)
A law phasing out certain single-use plastic products that are not recyclable (83%)
Less decisive majorities also support certain proposals that seek to limit plastic waste through fees on consumers, such as paying a 10-cent fee per plastic shopping bag (57% support / 42% oppose) and paying an additional fee when buying products in plastic containers (52% support / 48% oppose).
Walton Family Foundation + Morning Consult
This new poll, released in advance of World Oceans Day (June 8th), finds that Americans widely value sustainability and transparency on the part of seafood suppliers.
Among those who consume meat and seafood, seven in ten (70%) say that sustainability is an important consideration for them when purchasing meat and seafood products. Most also say that the country of processing (65%) and country of origin (61%) are important factors.
Additionally, majorities of consumers say that human rights abuses and illegal practices would impact their seafood purchasing decisions if they learned about them:
65% say they would be more confident buying from a company if they knew it has a traceability program to avoid human rights abuses
60% say they would be less likely to purchase seafood if slave labor was used to catch the fish
58% say they would be less likely to purchase seafood if it was collected in an illegal manner
The idea of increasing traceability in the seafood supply chain is also popular, as 72% support increasing the traceability of seafood and 63% believe that increased traceability will increase the freshness of seafood.
Data for Progress (Texas)
Texas voters view the clean energy transition as a net positive for the state economy, and most want to see their state leadership strengthen regulations on utilities and fossil fuel companies (Article, Topline)
This poll finds that Texans are still concerned about the state government’s response to Texas’s winter energy crisis last year and accordingly want to see steps to increase grid reliability and oversight of utilities.
Nearly two-thirds (65%) agree that state leaders such as Governor Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton didn’t do enough to protect consumers with high energy bills following Winter Storm Uri, and two-thirds (67%) believe that the federal government should investigate possible price gouging by power companies during the storm. Additionally, only 35% believe that the Texas state government is doing enough to prepare the state for the impacts of climate change.
The poll also finds that stronger oversight of energy companies is a popular proposition when framed in terms of reliability and costs. The clear majority (64%) support more regulations on power companies and oil and gas producers “given the disruptions to the power grid and high energy prices caused by Winter Storm Uri in February 2021.” And by a 56%-34% margin, Texans side more with an argument that “regulations on energy companies need to be stronger in Texas to ensure power stays on and to protect Texas consumers from high prices” than a competing argument that “regulations on energy companies are an overstep of the government, don’t usually deliver the benefits they promise, and are not worth the cost.”
Importantly, the poll also finds that more Texans believe that the clean energy transition will improve Texas’s economy (47%) than worsen it (35%). However, the fact that an outright majority don’t yet see the transition as a clear plus - especially in a state with such tremendous renewable energy potential - shows that Texas voters need to hear more of a positive story about how the state specifically stands to benefit from the transition.