Public Resource

Environmental Polling Roundup - November 19th, 2021

David Gold, Environmental Polling Consortium
11-19-2021

This post includes a roundup of climate and environment headlines, data points, and key takeaways from this week’s public polls - including a major new report on Americans’ shifting climate change attitudes from the Yale and GMU programs on climate change communication, plus fresh polling about the Build Back Better plan and how voters view climate-friendly policies in the context of rising living costs and gas prices.

 

HEADLINES

  • Yale Program on Climate Change Communication + GMU Center for Climate Change Communication - The majority of Americans now believe that Americans are being harmed by global warming “right now”; beliefs that climate change is having a major impact on weather have also risen sharply this year (ReleaseFull Report)
  • Washington Post + ABC - The Build Back Better plan has majority support after a brief description that leads with its climate change focus; most view climate change as a “very serious” problem facing the country (ToplineCrosstabs)
  • Yahoo + YouGov - Climate change is on par with coronavirus and only behind the economy and health care as a top issue for Americans in the 2022 elections; support for the Build Back Better plan drops among Democrats and independents when they learn that the package was trimmed down (ToplineCrosstabs)
  • Climate Power + Data for Progress - With voters deeply concerned about energy prices, investments in energy efficiency remain very popular (ReleaseToplines)
  • Navigator - Voters are receptive to the argument that corporate greed, including by oil and gas companies, is driving the rising cost of living (ReleaseDeckTopline)
  • Coltura + Climate Nexus + Yale + GMU - Most voters support requiring all new cars sold in their state to be electric starting in 2030; tax rebates and new charging infrastructure are key drivers of interest in purchasing electric vehicles (Press ReleaseNational ToplineFull release including links to state-level toplines)

 

GOOD DATA POINTS TO HIGHLIGHT

  • 84% of voters say it’s important for the Build Back Better plan to include investments to make homes, buildings, and schools more energy-efficient to lower energy costs [Climate Power + Data for Progress]
  • 72% of voters say it’s important for the Build Back Better plan to include increasing tax incentives for clean energy projects, such as solar and wind energy [Climate Power + Data for Progress]
  • 70% of Americans believe the federal government should regulate greenhouse gases from sources like power plants, cars and factories [Washington Post + ABC]
  • 70% of Americans believe that global warming is affecting weather in the United States [Yale + GMU]
  • 69% of voters say it’s important for the Build Back Better plan to include investments to make electric vehicles more affordable for consumers [Climate Power + Data for Progress
  • 67% of Americans rate climate change as a “serious problem” facing the country, including 57% who rate it as “very” serious [Washington Post + ABC]
  • 65% of voters say it’s important for the Build Back Better plan to include phasing out government subsidies and financial incentives for oil, gas, and coal [Climate Power + Data for Progress
  • Americans support the Build Back Better plan by a 58%-37% margin when it’s described as spending about two trillion dollars to address climate change and to create or expand preschool, health care and other social programs [Washington Post + ABC]
  • 56% of voters agree that electric vehicles save consumers money on fuel because electricity is cheaper than gas [Coltura + Climate Nexus + Yale + GMU]
  • By a 55%-35% margin, voters support requiring all new cars sold in their state to be electric starting in 2030 [Coltura + Climate Nexus + Yale + GMU]
  • 55% of Americans believe that people in the United States are being harmed by global warming “right now” [Yale + GMU]
  • 52% of Americans say they have personally experienced the effects of global warming [Yale + GMU]

 

FULL ROUNDUP

 

Yale Program on Climate Change Communication + GMU Center for Climate Change Communication

The majority of Americans now believe that Americans are being harmed by global warming “right now”; beliefs that climate change is having a major impact on weather have also risen sharply this year (Release, Full Report)

 

The latest joint report from the YPCCC and GMU Center for Climate Change Communication shows that Americans are increasingly concerned about climate change, increasingly understand the link between climate change and extreme weather events, and increasingly believe that the impacts of global warming are already being felt in the U.S. In fact, all of these data points reflect record highs in Yale and GMU’s tracking polling going back to 2008:

  • 70% of Americans are at least “somewhat worried” about global warming, including 35% who are “very worried” about it
  • 70% of Americans believe that global warming is affecting weather in the United States, including 43% who believe global warming is affecting weather “a lot”
  • 55% of Americans believe that people in the United States are being harmed by global warming “right now”
  • 52% of Americans say that they have personally experienced the effects of global warming

 

This marks the first time in Yale and GMU’s tracking in which most Americans say that global warming is harming people in the U.S. right now and most say that they themselves have been impacted.

 

While it’s important not to confuse correlation with causation, it’s hard not to see a connection between the sharp increases that Yale and GMU have measured this year in Americans’ beliefs that global warming is driving extreme weather and their beliefs that global warming is already harming people today. 

 

Since they last asked these questions in March, Yale and GMU have measured a 12-point increase in the percentage of Americans who believe that global warming is affecting weather “a lot” (43%, up from 31%) and a 10-point increase in the percentage who believe that people in the United States are being harmed “right now” by global warming (55%, up from 45%).

 

And in terms of specific types of extreme weather, Americans are most likely to believe that global warming is having at least some effect on hot weather events such as extreme heat (68%), wildfires (67%), and droughts (66%).

 

All of this data supports the finding that extreme weather events - particularly heat weaves, wildfires, and droughts - are highly salient examples to demonstrate that climate change is a here-and-now problem rather than a problem that can be addressed sometime in the future.

 

Washington Post + ABC

The Build Back Better plan has majority support after a brief description that leads with its climate change focus; most view climate change as a “very serious” problem facing the country (Topline, Crosstabs)

 

This new WaPo/ABC poll of U.S. adults has some extremely discouraging numbers for Democrats, with President Biden’s approval rating 12 points underwater (41% approve / 53% disapprove) and Republicans favored by 10 points on a generic ballot test for Congress (41% Democratic candidate / 51% Republican candidate).

 

Despite this difficult partisan environment for Democrats, Biden’s major legislative priorities continue to have majority support - including a 63%-32% margin in favor of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework (described here as “the federal government spending one trillion dollars on roads, bridges and other infrastructure”) and a 58%-37% margin in favor of the Build Back Better plan (described here as “the federal government spending about two trillion dollars to address climate change and to create or expand preschool, health care and other social programs.”)

 

The high support here for the Build Back Better plan is particularly notable for environmental advocates given that the poll’s brief description of it leads with the fact that it will “address climate change” - providing further evidence that the climate focus of the Build Back Better plan goes over well with general audiences.

 

The poll also included a few climate-specific questions, finding that two-thirds or more rate climate change as a “serious problem” facing the country (67%) and support the federal government regulating the release of greenhouse gases from sources like power plants, cars and factories in an effort to reduce global warming (70%).

 

Yahoo + YouGov

Climate change is on par with coronavirus and only behind the economy and health care as a top issue for Americans in the 2022 elections; support for the Build Back Better plan drops among Democrats and independents when they learn that the package was trimmed down (Topline, Crosstabs)

 

As poll after poll shows high support among the American public for real climate action, a common criticism has come up among those who don’t want to see the issue prioritized: that Americans care about climate change in the abstract, but don’t really care about it as an electoral issue.

 

Countering that claim, this new polling from Yahoo and YouGov makes it clear that climate change is one of the central issues on Americans’ minds as they think about the November 2022 midterm elections. When asked to choose which issue is most important for them in next year’s election, Americans are equally or more likely to select climate change (10%) from a list of major issues than anything else aside from the economy (31%) and health care (13%). This puts climate change on par with the coronavirus (10%) and immigration (9%) as a salient issue in next year’s elections, and considerably higher than several major issues including schools (3%) and foreign policy (1%).

 

The poll also provides some striking numbers about how Americans view the compromises that have been made thus far to bring down the Build Back Better plan’s price tag, as learning about the cuts made to the Build Back Better framework turns many Democrats and independent voters against the plan without improving its standing with Republican voters.

 

By a 49%-32% margin, the public is more likely to support than oppose the $3.5 trillion dollar version of the Build Back Better plan (described here as a “$3.5 trillion plan that would address climate change while also supporting working families with childcare subsidies, national paid family leave and universal pre-K.”) However, when told that the plan “has been cut to $1.75 trillion and several provisions have been removed, including paid family leave and free community college,” just 28% continue to support it and 45% oppose it.

 

Looking at the crosstabs, the drop-offs in support among Democrats and independents between the $3.5 trillion version and the $1.75 trillion version are quite stark. Meanwhile, Republicans are no more likely to support the trimmed down bill than the full $3.5 trillion version:

  • Americans overall: 49%-32% in favor of the $3.5T plan -> 45%-28% against the $1.75T plan
  • Democrats: 80%-7% in favor of the $3.5T plan -> 40%-37% in favor of the $1.75T plan
  • Independents: 43%-38% in favor of the $3.5T plan -> 50%-25% against the $1.75T plan
  • Republicans: 61%-23% against the $3.5T plan -> 55%-23% against the $1.75T plan

 

It’s important to keep in mind that the language in the poll here focuses heavily on what was cut from the plan, not what remains in it - so the framing here is quite different from how the media is likely to cover the bill’s ultimate passage. Still, this poll underlines how crucial it will be to tout the benefits of the final Build Back Better legislation to all audiences - including the environmental “base.” Without promoting the progress made by the bill, there appears to be real risk of deflating base supporters of climate action ahead of a pivotal election year.

 

Climate Power + Data for Progress

With voters deeply concerned about energy prices, investments in energy efficiency remain very popular (Release, Toplines)

 

With the cost of living top of mind for voters and heating costs sure to be a major stressor for many Americans this winter, Climate Power and Data for Progress have put out some timely findings about how voters are viewing rising energy costs and potential remedies in the Build Back Better plan.

 

Their polling finds that 87% of voters are concerned about energy prices increasing over the next several months, including nearly half (47%) who are “very” concerned about it. And in a test of four Build Back Better provisions that would help address the problem, voters widely prioritize including investments in cost-saving energy efficiency measures as part of the Build Back Better plan

 

Majorities say that each of the four policies tested here are important to include in the legislation:

  • Investments to make homes, buildings, and schools more energy-efficient to lower energy costs (84% important, including 42% who say this is “very” important to include)
  • Increasing tax incentives for clean energy projects, such as solar and wind energy (72% important, 35% “very” important)
  • Investments to make electric vehicles more affordable for consumers (69% important, 35% “very” important)
  • Phasing out government subsidies and financial incentives for oil, gas, and coal (65% important, 31% “very” important)

 

Messaging polling on the Build Back Better plan showed from the start that its potential to lower costs was one of the key selling points in favor of the plan. Pulling from the “key findings” of this July poll by Climate Power and LCV: “The provisions of the package that lower costs for working families and seniors, including energy costs, are important to swing voters and offer a winning response to criticisms that the Build Back Better package will fuel inflation.”

 

Consistent with that finding, energy efficiency has consistently polled as one of the most popular aspects of the plan. With the current focus on inflation and rising gas prices, it’s all the more important for advocates to communicate about energy efficiency and other Build Back Better provisions that will help ease the cost of living for everyday Americans. 

 

Navigator

Voters are receptive to the argument that corporate greed, including by oil and gas companies, is driving the rising cost of living (Release, Deck, Topline)

 

Navigator’s latest polling provides some further messaging guidance for climate advocates on how to address voters’ concerns about the rising cost of living.

 

Overall, they find that 54% of voters call the cost of goods like groceries and gas a “major crisis.” When asked to choose whether inflation is being driven more by government policies by Biden and Congress or by disruptions from the pandemic, voters are 11 points more likely to say the pandemic (51%) is more responsible than Biden and Congress (40%). Still, these inflation concerns are clearly problematic for Biden and his agenda - including the Build Back Better plan.

 

To address these concerns, Navigator tested four possible explanations that pin rising costs on factors such as corporate greed and pandemic-related labor shortages and demand surges. 

 

Majorities of voters rate three of the explanations tested as “convincing” statements about rising prices - including this statement that directly links rising gas prices to the greed of oil and gas companies:

 

“As the economy continues to recover from the pandemic, corporations are trying to take advantage of consumers: oil and gas companies are artificially driving up the price of gasoline while pharmaceutical companies are squeezing those in need on the cost of prescription drugs.”

 

Over three in five voters (63%) rate this statement as “convincing,” and it performs particularly well with a segment that Navigator calls “economic persuadables” - voters who disapprove of Biden on the economy but who say they support his economic proposals.

 

Messaging tests like this illustrate that there’s real opportunity for climate advocates to go on the offensive over gas prices and make corporate polluters the villains of the narrative rather than Biden: other recent polling showed that major oil and gas companies like Exxon, Shell, and BP were unpopular with the public even before the recent surge in gas prices.

 

Coltura + Climate Nexus + Yale + GMU

Most voters support requiring all new cars sold in their state to be electric starting in 2030; tax rebates and new charging infrastructure are key drivers of interest in purchasing electric vehicles (Press Release, National Topline, Full release including links to state-level toplines)

 

Also highly relevant to the current surge in gas prices, Coltura just released some comprehensive polling on the electric vehicle transition that was conducted jointly by Climate Nexus, Yale, and GMU.

 

Nationwide, they find that registered voters feel positively about electric vehicles by a wide margin (65% positive / 24% negative) and, importantly, voters generally believe that electric vehicles “save consumers money on fuel because electricity is cheaper than gas” (56% agree / 15% disagree).

 

Other positive beliefs that most voters have about electric vehicles are that they are better for the environment than gas-powered vehicles (70% agree / 11% disagree) and as safe as gas-powered cars (55% agree / 12% disagree).

 

Still, among consumers who plan to purchase or lease another vehicle in the next five years, only about half (49%) say they’re likely to purchase an electric vehicle. Vehicle costs and convenience concerns emerge as clear barriers for most people in thinking about electric vehicles: nearly three-quarters of voters (73%) agree that electric vehicles are more expensive than gas-powered cars and about half (51%) agree that electric vehicles don’t have the range to cover the average American’s daily driving needs.

 

It follows logically, therefore, that tax rebates and additional charging infrastructure are particularly effective at enticing consumers to consider electric vehicles. Clear majorities of voters nationwide say they would be more likely to consider an electric vehicle if there were more electric vehicle charging stations in their local area (65%) or if they were provided a $7,500 federal tax rebate for an electric vehicle purchase (63%)

 

Additionally, most voters across the country support the policy goal of shifting to electric vehicles. By a 55%-35% margin, most voters nationwide say they would support a state policy requiring all cars and tracks manufactured in 2030 or later to be electric (with an allowance for driving, selling, or buying gas-powered vehicles manufactured before 2030).