Public Resource

Environmental Polling Roundup - November 5th, 2021

David Gold, Environmental Polling Consortium
11-05-2021

This post includes a roundup of climate + environment headlines, data points, and key takeaways from this week’s public polls - including fresh polling on the new Build Back Better framework and its core climate and energy provisions + analysis of climate polling trends throughout the year + new polling on attitudes about climate and clean energy among Latino voters in battleground states and districts.

 

HEADLINES

  • Morning Consult - The public’s level of concern about climate has generally been steady this year but Biden’s approval on the issue has declined, in large part due to a drop among Democrats (Article)
  • POLITICO + Morning Consult - Major provisions of the Build Back Better framework, including investments in clean energy and climate, remain popular; when forced to choose which policies they most want to keep in the bill, voters gravitate toward health care provisions (Article, Topline, Crosstabs)
  • Navigator - Top-testing arguments for the Build Back Better plan focus on supporting workers, lowering everyday costs, and creating a better future for the next generation; regular voters still know very little about the bill (Release, Deck, Topline)
  • Data for Progress + Invest in America - Support for the new Build Back Better framework is high, including two-to-one support for investing in clean energy, resiliency, and conservation (Release, Topline)
  • Data for Progress + Groundwork Collaborative + SEAP - Two-thirds of voters in southern states are concerned about climate change and southern voters widely agree that extreme weather events are on the rise in their communities (Memo, Crosstabs)
  • Climate Power + BSP Research - Latino voters in battleground states and districts overwhelmingly support the Build Back Better plan’s climate and clean energy provisions (Topline, Crosstabs, AZ Release, CO Release, FL Release, NV Release, CA Battleground Districts Release, TX Battleground Districts Release)

 

GOOD DATA POINTS TO HIGHLIGHT

  • Voters support the new Build Back Better framework by a 61%-32% margin after reading a short description including its $1.75 trillion dollar price tag and major provisions including clean energy investments [Data for Progress + Invest in America]
  • Voters support investing in fortifying resilience to extreme weather events as part of the Build Back Better plan by a 62%-22% margin [POLITICOMorning Consult]
  • Voters support incentivizing clean energy technology innovations as part of the Build Back Better plan by a 62%-24% margin [POLITICO/Morning Consult]
  • Voters support incentivizing the installation of solar panels in homes as part of the Build Back Better plan by a 61%-24% margin [POLITICO/Morning Consult]
  • Two-thirds of voters in southern states (68%) agree that extreme weather events have become more frequent or severe in their community over the last five years [Data for Progress + Groundwork Collaborative + SEAP]
  • Two-thirds of votes in southern states (67%) say they’re personally concerned about climate change [Data for Progress + Groundwork Collaborative + SEAP]
  • 89% of Latino voters in battleground states and districts support lowering energy costs by making homes, schools, buildings, and vehicles more energy efficient as part of the Build Back Better plan [Climate Power + BSP Research]
  • 86% of Latino voters in battleground states and districts support making oil and gas companies pay their fair share for pollution as part of the Build Back Better plan [Climate Power + BSP Research]
  • 86% of Latino voters in battleground states and districts support providing tax incentives to make clean energy sources like wind and solar power widely available at lower costs as part of the Build Back Better plan [Climate Power + BSP Research
  • 85% of Latino voters in battleground states and districts support rewarding electric utilities that generate more electricity from clean energy sources as part of the Build Back Better plan [Climate Power + BSP Research

 

FULL ROUNDUP

 

Morning Consult - The public’s level of concern about climate has generally been steady this year but Biden’s approval on the issue has declined, in large part due to a drop among Democrats (Article)

Morning Consult launched a new effort this week to track Americans’ attitudes about energy and climate issues, which they’re calling Taking the Temperature, and the pollster-slash-publication says they’ll be regularly releasing new articles analyzing polling trends on these topics.

The “Key Takeaways” from the first published article in the series are excerpted below, including links to articles that go more in-depth on each takeaway.

Overall concern about climate change from the U.S. public has remained relatively steady since late summer, though the share of adults who say they are “very concerned” appears to have waxed and waned as climate has figured prominently in the news, peaking in the days after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its bleak assessment on Aug. 9. Read more.

Meanwhile, public concern about the local impacts of disasters saw a bump over the course of the summer as the frequency of disasters themselves mounted, before dropping again with the start of autumn. Read more.

In advance of President Joe Biden’s arrival at COP26, the share of voters that “strongly” approve of his administration’s handling of climate change had shrunk to 17% from its peak of 25%; this is driven largely by a drop among Democrats, from 46% to 32%. Read more.

The public has an overwhelmingly positive opinion of zero-emissions energy sources like solar and wind, with natural gas (a fossil fuel) close behind. Fossil fuels across the board elicit a stark partisan divide, with oil and coal especially favored by Republicans at much higher rates than by Democrats. Read more.

As both natural gas and oil prices increase globally — a fact most visible to U.S. consumers at the pump — a growing share of the public says it is “very concerned” about both current and future gasoline and electricity prices. Read more.”

The Democratic-driven drop in Biden’s approval rating on climate is notable, and adds to growing evidence that the Democratic base is losing patience with the administration and Congress when it comes to climate action. 

In another recent national tracking poll conducted by Morning Consult with POLITICO, more Democrats said that passing a climate bill should be a “top priority” for Congress (59%) than any other type of legislation besides stimulating the economy to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic (66%).

 

POLITICO + Morning Consult - Major provisions of the Build Back Better framework, including investments in clean energy and climate, remain popular; when forced to choose which policies they most want to keep in the bill, voters gravitate toward health care provisions (Article, Topline, Crosstabs)

This poll got a good amount of media coverage after Bernie Sanders reportedly showed it to Senate colleagues to argue that weakening the Build Back Better’s Medicare provisions would mean sacrificing the most popular elements of the bill.

The poll does indeed indicate that, when push comes to shove, voters would rather keep the senior care provisions of the bill in it than anything else. The POLITICO/Morning Consult poll showed respondents 18 specific elements that could be included in the legislation and asked people to choose their top five priorities. The only elements that more than a quarter of voters agreed were in their top five priorities all related to health care for seniors:

  • Adding dental and vision benefits to Medicare (41%)
  • Funding for home health care for seniors and people with disabilities (36%)
  • Allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices (34%)

(Note that Medicare dental and vision benefits, the top-testing item here, were dropped from the latest version of the bill framework; this appears to be what Sen. Sanders was referencing.)

Climate-related provisions including incentivizing clean energy technology innovations (18%), incentivizing the installation of home solar panels (12%), investing in fortifying resilience to extreme weather (12%), incentivizing the buying of electric vehicles through tax credits (9%), and paying utility companies to increase their renewable energy supplies (9%) all rank a tier or two lower on the list of voters’ priorities. 

That said, the fact that investments in senior health care are relatively more salient does not mean that the plan’s climate provisions aren’t popular or that advocates shouldn’t be focusing on them. Poll after poll shows that every major element of the bill has fairly broad support and that more voter education about what’s in the bill - including climate - is desperately needed.

In fact, in the same poll, all of the climate-related provisions that were asked about have either plurality or majority support:

  • Investing in fortifying resilience to extreme weather events (62% support / 22% oppose)
  • Incentivizing clean energy technology innovations (62% support / 24% oppose)
  • Incentivizing the installation of solar panels in homes (61% support / 24% oppose)
  • Paying utility companies to increase their renewable energy supplies (50% support / 33% oppose)
  • Incentivizing the buying of electric vehicles through tax credits (47% support / 37% oppose)

In other words, communicating about any of these climate-related provisions is likely to increase support for the plan. The provisions related to senior health care poll off the charts, so it can certainly be beneficial to work senior care into your messaging about Build Back Better if possible, but there’s nothing wrong with focusing on the climate policies if your goal is to boost public support for the bill’s passage.

 

Navigator - Top-testing arguments for the Build Back Better plan focus on supporting workers, lowering everyday costs, and creating a better future for the next generation; everyday voters still know very little about the bill (Release, Deck, Topline)

This new data from Navigator hammers home how much work there remains to do to educate voters about what’s in the Build Back Better plan: just under one-quarter of voters (24%) say they’ve heard “a lot” about new economic legislation being proposed by President Biden and being negotiated by Democrats in Congress. Meanwhile, over four in ten (42%) say they haven’t heard much or anything about it.

The poll also tested several messages in support of the plan’s passage, and Navigator’s findings here are definitely worth keeping in mind for those trying to explain the plan to general audiences. 

These three statements in support of the Build Back Better plan ranked as the most convincing overall and among key audiences including Democratic voters and independents, indicating that they’re good messaging frames to use whether your goal is base activation or persuasion:

“This plan rewards work, not wealth, by supporting American workers who are the backbone of our economy with lower costs and tax cuts, rather than supporting the super rich and corporations who continue to get richer while working Americans get left behind.”

“This plan will lower Americans’ everyday costs, including lowering prescription drug prices, lowering the cost of health insurance, and reducing energy bills, all while cutting taxes for middle class families and making the rich and corporations pay their fair share.”

“This plan is an investment in the next generation, with plans to combat climate change and protect the planet for our kids, invest in workforce training and education access, and improve job opportunities. This plan will build a brighter future for them.”

 

Data for Progress + Invest in America - Support for the new Build Back Better framework is high, including two-to-one support for investing in clean energy, resiliency, and conservation (Release, Topline)

Data for Progress has done a great job of putting out timely polling data on the Build Back Better plan’s key policies as the bill’s scope and specifics have changed during negotiations. This latest poll with Invest in America, which went into the field right after the White House released its new $1.75 trillion Build Back Better framework last week, reaffirms that voters a.) widely support the Build Back Better plan overall, b.) support several of its specific provisions in even larger numbers, and c.) want to see climate action included in the bill.

Overall, the plan enjoys nearly two-to-one support (61% support / 32% oppose) when described as “a proposal to invest $1.75 trillion over the next ten years to better fund long-term care for seniors and people with disabilities, expand Medicare coverage to include hearing, invest in clean energy, extend tax credits for families with children, and provide subsidies for child care.”

And here’s how the specific core provisions tested rank in terms of overall support:

  • 78% support improving the quality of and increasing access to long-term care for seniors and people with disabilities
  • 75% support expanding Medicare coverage so that it includes hearing coverage
  • 66% support investing in housing affordability and reducing price pressures, including in rural areas
  • 63% support funding for expanding the use of clean energy, preparing for extreme weather events, and creating new American jobs in manufacturing and environmental conservation
  • 63% support providing universal pre-K to all three and four year-olds
  • 63% support investing in child care so that families don’t spend more than 7% of their income on child care 
  • 60% support extending the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit, a governmental income support program for working people
  • 59% support reducing costs and expanding access to education beyond high school by raising the maximum Pell grant, increasing funding for minority-serving colleges, and better funding workforce development
  • 56% support extending tax credits for people who get their insurance through Affordable Care Act expansion
  • 51% support extending the Child Tax Credit, which provides low- and middle-income parents up to $300 per month for each child they have age 17 or under

As in other polling on the Build Back Better plan, the provisions related to senior care poll exceptionally well. At the same time, the broad support here for investments in clean energy, conservation, and climate action should provide additional confidence for advocates who want to communicate about the environmental aspects of the legislation.

 

Data for Progress + Groundwork Collaborative + SEAP - Two-thirds of voters in southern states are concerned about climate change and southern voters widely agree that extreme weather events are on the rise in their communities (Memo, Crosstabs)

More new polling from Data for Progress here, conducted in collaboration with the Groundwork Collaborative and Southern Economic Advancement Project (SEAP), demonstrates how southern voters have widely felt impacted by extreme weather this year.

A recent Pew survey found that Americans in the south were particularly attuned to extreme weather in their local area this year: out of all regions in the country, the West South Central (Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Arkansas) - which was hit particularly hard by the February cold wave, Hurricane Nicholas, and Hurricane Ida - had the highest rate of respondents saying their area had recently experienced extreme weather (73%).

This new DFP/Groundwork Collaborative/SEAP poll confirms the broad sense in southern states that local weather is becoming more extreme. Their survey sampled registered voters in 12 states (AL, AR, FL, GA, KY, LA, MS, NC, SC, TN, VA, & WV) and found that 68% agree that extreme weather events have become more frequent or severe in their community over the last five years. 

Perceptions of extreme weather have unfortunately become polarized along partisan lines in recent years, so it’s no surprise here that Democrats in southern states (84%) are the most likely to agree that extreme weather is becoming more frequent or severe. However, the sense that extreme weather is worsening is the majority view of independents (64%) and Republican voters (58%) as well. Additionally, two-thirds of voters in these states (67%) say they’re concerned about climate change - including 88% of Democrats, 69% of independents, and 50% of Republicans.

There’s still a lot of work to do to firm up the connection between extreme weather events and climate change in everyday Americans’ minds. However, this poll affirms that there are high levels of concern about climate change even among deeply conservative audiences like southern Republicans. Additionally, after all the devastating weather events that afflicted southern states in 2021, extreme weather may be a particularly fruitful entry point to engage southern voters on the issue and to highlight its day-to-day impact.

 

Climate Power + BSP Research - Latino voters in battleground states and districts overwhelmingly support the Build Back Better plan’s climate and clean energy provisions (Topline, Crosstabs, AZ Release, CO Release, FL Release, NV Release, CA Battleground Districts Release, TX Battleground Districts Release)

This is the first comprehensive Latino-focused climate poll release I’ve seen in a while (EDAF + Latino Decisions also put out some great work on Latino voters’ environmental attitudes about a year ago), and it shows that the climate and clean energy provisions being considered in Build Back Better negotiations have overwhelming support among Latino voters in battleground states and congressional districts.

All of the 11 Build Back Better provisions tested in the poll have overwhelming support (76%+), and several climate and clean energy provisions rank among the most popular elements of the bill whether looking at overall net support or intensity (“strong support”). Particularly appealing provisions include:

  • Lowering energy costs by making homes, schools, buildings, and vehicles more energy efficient (89% total support, including 55% strong support)
  • Creating millions of additional clean energy jobs in fast-growing industries like wind and solar (87% total support, including 52% strong support)
  • Making oil and gas companies pay their fair share for the pollution they create (86% total support, including 55% strong support)
  • Providing tax incentives to make clean energy sources like wind and solar power widely available at lower costs (86% total support, including 51% strong support)
  • Rewarding electric utilities that generate more electricity from clean energy sources like wind and solar (85% total support, including 50% strong support)

Latino voters are a very diverse audience, so there’s always some risk in over-extrapolating from aggregate, topline numbers like these. That said, it’s encouraging that the crosstabs here show strong support for pro-climate policies across geographies. (The poll sampled Latino voters statewide in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, and Nevada, as well as Latino voters in competitive U.S. House districts in California and Texas). 

Accordingly, the poll indicates that the Build Back Better plan’s climate and clean energy provisions are strong selling points for Latino voters, who are a crucial swing audience in many of the states and districts that are going to be most competitive in the 2022 midterms.