Public Resource

Environmental Polling Roundup - November 12th, 2021

David Gold, Environmental Polling Consortium
11-12-2021

This post includes a roundup of climate and environment headlines, data points, and key takeaways from this week’s public polls - including new polling on the Build Back Better plan, its key provisions, and its personal impacts.

 

HEADLINES

  • POLITICO + Morning Consult - Climate change and the environment remain the two issues where Democrats in Congress are trusted most over Republicans in Congress; passing a climate bill is equally or more important to Democratic voters than any other priority besides coronavirus recovery (Topline, Crosstabs)
  • Navigator - Voters continue to widely support the Build Back Better plan after learning basic information about it; while health insurance provisions remain the most popular elements of the plan, over two-thirds see investment in clean energy jobs as a good reason to pass the legislation (Release, Deck)
  • Monmouth University - Six in ten Americans support significant investment in climate action as part of the Build Back Better framework (Release including topline and crosstabs)
  • Suffolk University + USA Today - Most voters still don’t see how the reconciliation bill will help their own family (Topline, Crosstabs

 

GOOD DATA POINTS TO HIGHLIGHT

  • 69% of voters believe that creating clean, renewable energy jobs that help combat climate change is a good reason to pass the Build Back Better plan [Navigator]
  • 64% of voters believe that passing a bill to address climate change and its effects is an important priority for Congress [POLITICO/Morning Consult]
  • 62% of Americans support the Build Back Better plan after a brief, one-sentence explanation of it [Monmouth]
  • 60% of Americans support including “a significant amount of money to deal with climate change” in the Build Back Better bill [Monmouth]
  • More Americans say that climate change and the environment is the single most important issue area to them than any other issue area besides health care [YouGov/Economist]

 

FULL ROUNDUP

 

POLITICO + Morning Consult - Climate change and the environment remain the two issues where Democrats in Congress are trusted most over Republicans in Congress; passing a climate bill is equally or more important to Democratic voters than any other priority besides coronavirus recovery (Topline, Crosstabs)

POLITICO and Morning Consult have been regularly tracking voters’ relative trust in the two parties across a range of issues, and this new data confirms the consistent finding that climate change and the environment are the two biggest issue strengths that the Democratic Party has over the Republican Party

Here are the margins by which each party in Congress is trusted more than the other on each of the issues tested in the poll, among registered voters nationwide:

  • Climate change - Democrats +20
  • The environment - Democrats +16
  • Coronavirus - Democrats +9
  • Health care - Democrats +8
  • Medicare and Social Security - Democrats +8
  • Education - Democrats +7
  • Energy - Democrats +5
  • Voting rights - Democrats +4
  • Jobs - Republicans +4
  • Immigration - Republicans +6
  • Gun policy - Republicans +7
  • The economy - Republicans +10
  • National security - Republicans +14

In fact, as this data shows, the generic Democratic advantages on climate change and the environment are the biggest measured advantages that either party has over the other on any major issues - wider than the Republican advantages on national security and the economy. 

And the Democratic advantages on these issues are even more pronounced when you look at the middle of the electorate: self-identified independent voters trust Democrats in Congress over Republicans by 24 points on the issue of climate change and by 21 points on the environment.

The crosstabs also illustrate the potential for Democrats to use climate change and the environment as wedge issues to peel off typically Republican-supporting voters. Double-digit percentages of Republican voters admit that they trust the Democratic party more than the Republican party on climate change (13%) and the environment (11%), and there isn’t a single other issue where more than nine percent of self-identified Republicans trust the Democratic party over the GOP.

Additionally, the poll underlines how climate change continues to be a critical base motivation issue for Democrats. POLITICO and Morning Consult asked respondents how much they want Congress to focus on 12 different legislative priorities, and, among Democratic voters, passing a climate bill (which 56% of Democrats say is a “top priority”) is on par with passing a healthcare reform bill (55%) as the most important priority for Congress after stimulating the economy to recover from the pandemic (65%).

 

Navigator - Voters continue to widely support the Build Back Better plan after learning basic information about it; while health insurance provisions remain the most popular elements of the plan, over two-thirds see investment in clean energy jobs as a good reason to pass the legislation (Release, Deck)

Navigator’s tracking of support for the Build Back Better plan, in which they provide a one-sentence summary of major provisions of the plan, has shown how consistently Americans support the substance of the legislation: overall support for the plan in their tracking has hovered between 58% and 62% since September.

In their latest release, voters support the plan by a 59%-30% margin when it’s described as “Biden and Democrats’ new economic plan” that is “expected to cost $1.75 trillion and will establish a universal pre-K program, expand Medicare for seniors to include hearing coverage, and lower health care costs by allowing Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices.”

The poll also drilled down on specific provisions of the plan, asking respondents how good of a reason each one is to pass the plan. As has reliably been the case in Build Back Better polling, the top-testing policies tend to relate to health care - particularly for seniors. These top-testing items include:

  • Lowering health insurance premiums (82% say this is a good reason to pass the plan)
  • Giving Medicare power to negotiate lower drug prices and capping prescription drug costs for seniors (80%)
  • Stopping big corporations and the rich from paying next to nothing in taxes each year (76%)
  • Expanding Medicare to cover things like hearing aids (75%)

While it doesn’t quite match the salience of these health care provisions, there is also broad agreement (69%) that creating clean, renewable energy jobs that help combat climate change is a good reason to pass the plan.

All of this supports a consistent finding in Build Back Better polling: there is real persuasive value to focusing on the climate benefits of the Build Back Better plan when communicating with the general public. While the climate aspects don’t resonate as widely as the health care aspects, voters widely support climate action being part of the bill.

It’s also notable that, for all 16 of the bill’s provisions that Navigator tested, 66%+ say that each is a good reason to pass the plan - a higher percentage than support the bill in general (59%). This demonstrates how much value there is in raising awareness of basically any of the plan’s major provisions. Especially with President Biden’s approval rating taking a dip in recent weeks, it’s much better for supporters of the legislation to have the public be able to evaluate what’s actually in the bill rather than leaving people to form impressions of it based on their opinions of Biden and Democrats in Congress.

 

Monmouth University - Six in ten Americans support significant investment in climate action as part of the Build Back Better framework (Release including topline and crosstabs)

This new Monmouth University poll further demonstrates the consistent support for the Build Back Better package overall, as well as the broad support for climate action as part of the Build Back Better legislation.

Monmouth has asked adults nationwide whether they support or oppose various iterations of the Build Back Better plan in four surveys since April, and has found support to consistently fall between 61% and 64% - including a 62%-35% margin of support for the plan now when it’s described as “a plan to expand access to healthcare and childcare, and provide paid leave and college tuition support.”

The poll then followed this up with a question informing respondents that “the plan to expand health care and other forms of support also includes a significant amount of money to deal with climate change,” and found that Americans support the “climate change part of the plan” by a 60%-38% margin

The slight differential in support, from a 62%-35% margin in favor of the plan overall to a 60%-38% margin in favor of the climate change part of the plan, is driven by self-identified Republicans - who oppose the plan in general by a 70%-26% margin and oppose the specific climate change aspect of it by a wider, 79%-19% margin. 

However, there’s no real difference in support between the broader plan and the climate piece among independents (who support the plan overall by a 60%-36% margin and support the climate aspect by a 61%-36% margin) or among Democrats (who support the plan overall by a 96%-4% margin and support the climate aspect by a 94%-5% margin). If anything, the climate aspect of the Build Back Better plan may actually intensify support among independent voters: more independents say they support the plan’s climate piece strongly (44%) than support the overall plan strongly (38%).

 

Suffolk University + USA Today - Most voters still don’t see how the reconciliation bill will help their own family (Topline, Crosstabs

While polling about Build Back Better has generally been positive, in that it consistently demonstrates broad public support for the legislation, one less encouraging trend in the polling about Build Back Better has been low awareness of how the plan will help people at the individual level

This new poll from Suffolk University and USA Today shows that this trend is continuing, as just 26% of voters nationwide believe that the Build Back Better plan (described here as a “$1.85 trillion reconciliation bill”) will help families like theirs. Meanwhile, 30% believe it will actually hurt families like theirs, 31% believe it won’t have much effect, and 14% are undecided. 

(The poll also found that voters only support the plan by a 47%-44% margin when it’s described as a “$1.85 trillion reconciliation bill before Congress to fund clean energy programs, pre-kindergarten, healthcare initiatives, and other soft infrastructure.” This is a considerably lower level of support for the plan than most other public polls, which likely has to do with the lack of detail provided in the question.)

Low expectations about the individual benefits of the legislation are also clear in polling last week by Emerson College, which found that only around one-third of voters nationwide (34%) believe that the Build Back Better legislation will make a positive impact in their lives. In the Emerson poll, 39% expect it to have a negative impact,16% expect no real personal impact, and 11% are unsure.

This is an issue that can potentially be overcome with paid and earned media about the bill and how it will affect everyday people - including addressing the affordability of health care and child care and creating new jobs in clean energy.

However, to raise awareness of the benefits of the plan will require a great deal more information to get to everyday Americans than is currently filtering through: in the Navigator report linked above, just one-quarter of voters (25%) said they’ve been hearing “a lot” about the Build Back Better legislation while 35% have been hearing little or nothing about it.