Public Resource

Environmental Polling Roundup - October 1st, 2021

David Gold, Environmental Polling Consortium
10-01-2021

This post includes a roundup of climate + environment headlines from this week’s public polls, good data points to highlight, and a full roundup with key takeaways from each poll - including timely new polling on the Build Back Better plan and its climate provisions nationally and in key battlegrounds, as well as new polling about the most trusted messengers on climate change

 

HEADLINES

  • Navigator - Three in five Americans support the full $3.5 trillion Build Back Better plan, with or without explicit pay-fors (Report)
  • Sierra Club - Arizona voters widely support the full $3.5 trillion Build Back Better plan and overwhelmingly oppose proposed cuts; majorities believe climate change is already affecting the state and want to see Arizona become a clean energy leader (ReleaseMemoTopline)
  • Climate Power + Data for Progress - Voters in frontline Democratic-held districts widely support the full $3.5 trillion Build Back Better plan (ReleaseAZ-01 ToplineFL-07 ToplineGA-07 ToplineIA-03 ToplineME-02 ToplineMI-08 ToplineNJ-05 ToplineNY-04 Topline)
  • NRDC Action Fund - Climate action is an important motivator for low-propensity Democrats and independents in the 2022 midterm elections (Release)
  • Data for Progress - Majorities continue to support the major climate-related aspects of the Build Back Better plan, with energy efficiency and clean energy provisions especially popular (ReleaseTopline)
  • Data for Progress - Voters nationwide support the Clean Electricity Performance Program to incentivize clean energy goals for utilities; supporters have winning arguments to use against pushback (Release)
  • Morning Consult - Scientists are the most trusted sources of information about climate change across party lines; most Americans believe that climate change is already affecting the environment and weather where they live (ArticleCrosstabs)
  • Yale Program on Climate Change Communication + George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication - Public concern about climate change is rising, and support for federal climate action is rising along with it (Article on climate beliefs and concernsArticle on support for climate action)

 

GOOD DATA POINTS TO HIGHLIGHT (NATIONAL)

  • Voters support the Build Back Better plan by a two-to-one margin (61%-30%) after being informed of its major provisions and $3.5 trillion dollar price tag [Navigator]
  • By a 69%-22% margin, voters support a new “carbon border tax” that would place a fee on goods that are imported from countries that have more relaxed environmental regulations than the United States [Data for Progress]
  • By a 66%-24% margin, voters support a new Clean Electricity Performance Program (CEPP) that would incentivize utility companies to meet clean energy performance goals and penalize those who fail to comply [Data for Progress]
  • 62% of Americans believe that climate change is making natural disasters more frequent [Morning Consult]
  • 62% of Americans believe that climate change is making natural disasters more powerful [Morning Consult]
  • 57% of Americans believe that climate change is affecting the environment and weather where they live [Morning Consult]
  • Americans who believe that global warming is happening outnumber Americans who don’t believe that global warming is happening by a greater than six-to-one margin, 76%-12% [YPCCC + GMU]
  • 55% of Americans believe that people in the United States are being harmed right now by global warming [YPCCC + GMU]

 

GOOD DATA POINTS TO HIGHLIGHT (KEY STATES + DISTRICTS)

  • Arizona voters support the Build Back Better budget by a greater than two-to-one margin (65%-31%) after being informed of its major provisions and $3.5 trillion dollar price tag [Sierra Club]
  • 77% of Arizona voters agree that expanding solar energy in Arizona would boost the economy and create more good jobs in the state [Sierra Club]
  • 72% of Arizona voters agree that climate change is already having a serious impact on Arizona after recent droughts, heatwaves, and fires [Sierra Club]
  • Voters in Rep. Tom O’Halleran’s district (AZ-01) support the full $3.5 trillion Build Back Better plan by a 56%-39% margin [Climate Power + Data for Progress]
  • Voters in Rep. Stephanie Murphy’s district (FL-07) support the full $3.5 trillion Build Back Better plan by a 66%-30% margin [Climate Power + Data for Progress]
  • Voters in Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux’s district (GA-07) support the full $3.5 trillion Build Back Better plan by a 53%-40% margin [Climate Power + Data for Progress]
  • Voters in Rep. Cindy Axne’s district (IA-03) support the full $3.5 trillion Build Back Better plan by a 62%-35% margin [Climate Power + Data for Progress]
  • Voters in Rep. Jared Golden’s district (ME-02) support the full $3.5 trillion Build Back Better plan by a 61%-37% margin [Climate Power + Data for Progress]
  • Voters in Rep. Elissa Slotkin’s district (MI-08) support the full $3.5 trillion Build Back Better plan by a 58%-39% margin [Climate Power + Data for Progress]
  • Voters in Rep. Josh Gottheimer’s district (NJ-05) support the full $3.5 trillion Build Back Better plan by a 61%-37% margin [Climate Power + Data for Progress]
  • Voters in Rep. Kathleen Rice’s district (NY-04) support the full $3.5 trillion Build Back Better plan by a 67%-29% margin [Climate Power + Data for Progress]

 

FULL ROUNDUP

 

Navigator - Three in five Americans support the full $3.5 trillion Build Back Better plan, with or without explicit pay-fors (Report)

The latest report from Navigator’s national tracking polling shows two-to-one support for the Build Back Better plan (61% support / 30% oppose) after a brief description that frames it as “Biden and Democrats’ new economic plan” that is “expected to cost $3.5 trillion” and lists key provisions.

Interestingly, the poll also found that net support is static after respondents are informed that the plan is paid for by raising taxes on high earners and corporations: 61% continued to support the plan and 30% continued to oppose it after seeing this information. 

Head-to-head message tests later in the poll, however, indicate that there are benefits to proactively messaging on the Build Back Better plan’s pay-fors in order to counter opposition messaging. The poll asked whether respondents agreed more with different Democratic messaging frames or with “Republicans who say this plan will incentivize Americans not to work, raise taxes on working people, and balloon the national deficit.” 

All four Democratic messaging frames shown in the report beat the Republican message by margins of 57%-59% to 41%-43%, so there wasn’t much differentiation overall, but the report highlights that two statements garnered particularly wide margins of agreement among independent voters (66%-34%) and both of these statements had a bit of a populist angle to them:

  • “Democrats who say their economic plan will help all Americans by rebuilding our economy, providing tax relief to the middle class, getting people back to work, and making the wealthy pay their fair share.”
  • “Democrats who say their economic plan will reduce the influence of special interests by ending tax breaks for big corporations, especially those in the fossil fuel industry, and taking on Big Pharma to lower prescription drug costs.”

 

Sierra Club - Arizona voters widely support the full $3.5 trillion Build Back Better plan and overwhelmingly oppose proposed cuts; majorities believe climate change is already affecting the state and want to see Arizona become a clean energy leader (Release, Memo, Topline)

This new poll from Sierra Club demonstrates quite comprehensively that Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s attempts to trim down the reconciliation bill are out of step with her constituents’ priorities.

The poll shows that Arizona voters overwhelmingly support the Build Back Better plan after a paragraph explanation of its substance (70% support/26% oppose). This support continues to be high after voters learn about the $3.5 trillion price tag and pay-fors (65% support/31% oppose) and after they’re exposed to balanced messaging for and against the plan (62% support/33% oppose).

The poll also asked whether voters would be more or less likely to support the plan if some of the proposed investments were cut to get it down to a hypothetical $2 trillion price tag. Just 17% of Arizona voters would be more likely to support a trimmed-down bill, and 44% would be less likely to support a trimmed-down version.

Beyond these figures that demonstrate the durable support in Arizona for the full $3.5 trillion package, the poll shows that there is a state-specific argument to make in Arizona that the state’s residents 1.) recognize that the state is especially vulnerable to climate impacts like extreme heat, drought, and wildfires and 2.) believe that the state is particularly well-positioned to benefit economically from the clean energy transition. 

Over seven in ten Arizonans (72%) agree with the statement that “with recent droughts, heatwaves, and fires, climate change is already having a serious impact on Arizona” - including nearly half (48%) who agree strongly. The state’s voters also overwhelmingly agree with statements that “Arizona should be a leader in the development, deployment, and export of solar energy” (86% agree, 60% agree strongly) and that “expanding solar energy in Arizona would boost our economy and create more good jobs in the state” (77% agree, 52% agree strongly).

While I haven’t seen these particular questions asked in other states, the strong salience of this line of messaging in Arizona - that hot-weather areas are both particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and particularly well-positioned to benefit economically from the clean energy transition - suggests it could resonate in a lot of states across the Sun Belt. 

 

Climate Power + Data for Progress - Voters in frontline Democratic-held districts widely support the full $3.5 trillion Build Back Better plan (Release, AZ-01 Topline, FL-07 Topline, GA-07 Topline, IA-03 Topline, ME-02 Topline, MI-08 Topline, NJ-05 Topline, NY-04 Topline)

Here’s more data that demonstrates the daylight between Democratic holdouts on the Build Back Better plan and their constituents. 

Climate Power and Data for Progress polled the home districts of eight Democratic congressmembers who are key swing votes on the Build Back Better plan and found that majorities of voters in each of these frontline districts support the full $3.5 trillion Build Back Better proposal when provided with a brief description. Support ranges from a net margin of 13 points in GA-07 (53% support / 40% oppose) up to a net margin of 38 points in NY-04 (67% support / 29% oppose).

These district-specific polls also asked whether voters would be more or less inclined to vote for a candidate for Congress who opposes the Build Back Better plan and, in each district, voters are on net less likely to back a candidate who opposes the plan. Whatever reasons these members have for holding out their support, I haven’t seen any data to indicate that it works to their advantage electorally.

 

NRDC Action Fund - Climate action is an important motivator for low-propensity Democrats and independents in the 2022 midterm elections (Release)

Another curious aspect of some frontline Democrats’ hesitation on the reconciliation package is that Democratic voters are likely to be far less enthused about 2022 if Biden’s agenda is crippled - and frontline members are the most at risk if base turnout is depressed.

As this new polling from NRDC Action shows, climate action is particularly important to the lower-propensity voters that Democrats need to turn out in order to hold their House majority next year.

In a poll of low-propensity Democrats and independents who live in either the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s designated “Frontline” House districts or competitive U.S. Senate battlegrounds (AZ, GA, NH, PA, + WI), 66% say they would be more likely to vote in 2022 if Democrats in Congress pass the full Build Back Better plan. 

Additionally, 82% of these voters say that addressing climate change is a “very important” priority for them in the bill and 52% say they will be less enthusiastic about voting in 2022 if climate change is not fully funded in the bill.

 

Data for Progress - Majorities continue to support the major climate-related aspects of the Build Back Better plan, with energy efficiency and clean energy provisions especially popular (Release, Topline)

This new polling from Data for Progress underlines the broad popularity of the various climate-related provisions that have been proposed in the Build Back Better budget, as every single provision that the poll tested has majority support among voters nationwide:

  • 70% support investments to make homes, buildings, and schools more energy-efficient
  • 67% support investments to research and develop clean energy technologies
  • 65% support tax credits for clean energy projects, such as solar and wind energy
  • 63% support clean electricity performance incentives to encourage utility companies to switch to clean energy
  • 62% support investments in communities that historically have been negatively impacted by pollution
  • 57% support creating a Civilian Climate Corps to employ young people in community sustainability projects
  • 57% support investments to make electric vehicles more affordable for consumers
  • 54% support phasing out government subsidies and financial incentives for oil, gas, and coal

Data for Progress’s polling has consistently shown that investments in energy efficiency and clean energy are two very popular climate-related provisions of the bill that advocates should focus on in their communications. And, taking a wider look at other provisions related to energy and the environment, their polling has also shown grid modernization and lead pipe removal to be highly salient components as well.

 

Data for Progress - Voters nationwide support the Clean Electricity Performance Program to incentivize clean energy goals for utilities; supporters have winning arguments to use against pushback (Release)

More new national polling from Data for Progress here shows that voters support a Clean Electricity Performance Program (CEPP) by a 66%-24% margin when it is explained to them as a program wherein “utility companies that meet certain clean energy performance goals would be given incentives from the government, while those that fail to comply will be required to pay a penalty.”

In a three-way split-sample messaging experiment, Data for Progress also tested three arguments in favor of the Clean Electricity Performance Program against the following opposition argument: “The cost of clean energy is dropping dramatically. The government does not need to provide any incentives to utility companies that are already increasing their usage of clean energy because they know it’s better for business.”

The top-testing pro-CEPP message in the experiment, which respondents said was more convincing than the opposition message by a 16-point margin (52%-36%), focused on the need to stand up for consumers and the planet in the face of corporate greed: “Utility companies say they are transitioning to clean energy, but they care more about their profits than your energy bills or climate change. We need the CEPP to create an electricity grid that is more reliable, cheaper, and better for the planet.”

This message slightly outperformed the other two alternative pro-CEPP messages, one of which focused on the effectiveness of government investments in clean energy (13-point margin, 48%-35%) and one of which focused on the need to combat climate change with more urgency (9-point margin, 47%-38%).

It’s hard to infer too much from the message test since there wasn’t a tremendous deal of differentiation between the different options, but the data indicates both that 1.) the CEPP is a compelling idea that can stand up to expected attacks and 2.) there is an opportunity to persuasively position the CEPP as a way for consumers to stand up against corporate greed

As I’ve mentioned in previous roundups, any opportunity to distance climate messaging from the left vs. right culture war and re-frame it more as an issue of people vs. polluters is an opportunity worth exploring. 

 

Morning Consult - Scientists are the most trusted sources of information about climate change across party lines; most Americans believe that climate change is already affecting the environment and weather where they live (Article, Crosstabs)

This is the first public data I’ve seen in a while that tested trust in different potential messengers about climate change, and some of the findings are a bit counterintuitive.

Morning Consult asked respondents how much they trust various different public figures and entities on the issue of climate change and found that scientists earn the highest degree of trust on climate change among Americans of every political affiliation.

Here’s how messengers tested in the poll rank among adults nationwide, by the percentage who trust each messenger at least “somewhat” on the issue of climate change:

  • Scientists - 70%
  • The Environmental Protection Agency - 61%
  • National environmental groups - 61%
  • President Biden - 44%
  • Democrats in Congress - 42%
  • Economists - 40%
  • Republicans in Congress - 26%
  • Business leaders - 24%

Among Democrats, scientists are the most trusted group (87% trust at least somewhat) - just ahead of the EPA (82%) and national environmental groups (81%).

Independents are also most inclined to trust scientists (66%), and narrow majorities also put trust in national environmental groups (55%) and the EPA (52%)

Republicans also put the most trust in scientists (53%), just ahead of Republicans in Congress (51%).

This data is a good reminder that everyday Republican voters are far more trusting of science than Republican elected officials, and it’s also striking how poorly economists and business leaders fare here. Among Republicans, just 31% trust economists on climate change and only 25% trust business leaders.

Polling has long shown that winning the arguments on costs and the economy is critical to persuading conservative Americans behind climate action, so it’s tempting to infer that economic and business experts make for good messengers to conservatives. However, that inference simply isn’t backed up by the data here.

One important group that’s missing from this poll is the military, as other polling indicates that the military is also an effective validator on climate change for right-leaning voters.

Morning Consult also asked how much respondents trusted each of these public figures and entities for “information about hurricanes and other natural disasters,” and the data didn’t differ much between the questions about climate change and the questions about natural disasters. 

The only real difference to note there is that the poll included “national meteorologists” and “your local meteorologist” as potential sources of information about natural disasters, and found that scientists (72% trust at least “somewhat”), national meteorologists (74%), and local meteorologists (71%) all earn similar levels of trust on the topic.

The poll also asked a series of questions about the impacts of climate change and extreme weather, and found that a majority of Americans (57%) believe that climate change is affecting the environment and weather where they live. Another 16% believe that climate change is affecting the environment and weather generally, just not in their specific community, and only 13% believe that climate change is not affecting the environment or weather anywhere. 

 

Yale Program on Climate Change Communication + George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication - Public concern about climate change is rising, and support for federal climate action is rising along with it (Article on climate beliefs and concerns, Article on support for climate action)

The YPCCC and GMU recently finished fielding their latest national voter survey and have previewed some of the findings in a couple of new articles. Some of their notable findings include that:

  • 70% of Americans are now very or somewhat worried about global warming, which is an all-time high in YPCCC/GMU tracking that goes back to 2008
  • For the first time in YPCCC/GMU’s tracking, a majority of Americans (55%) say that people in the U.S. “are being harmed right now” by global warming.
  • Beliefs that global warming should be a high or very high priority for the president and Congress have risen since March across major segments of the electorate, including liberal Democrats (88%->94%), moderate-to-conservative Democrats (78%->80%), liberal-to-moderate Republicans (35%->45%), and conservative Republicans (12%->17%)

There will surely be lots more data to highlight in future roundups as the YPCCC and GMU publish their official reports on this polling, but this early glimpse at their findings confirms that we are in a moment of historically high public concern about climate change and its day-to-day impacts right now.