Public Resource

Environmental Polling Roundup - October 22nd, 2021

David Gold, Environmental Polling Consortium
10-22-2021

­This post includes a roundup of climate + environment headlines, data points, and key takeaways from this week’s public polls - including new polling on the Build Back Better plan, a new report on politics and global warming perceptions from Yale and George Mason, new polls about extreme weather and methane rules, and a summary deck of key messaging and insights from recent climate and clean energy polling.

 

HEADLINES

  • Navigator - Fairer taxes, lower prescription drug prices, and expanded Medicare coverage are key rationales for voters to support the Build Back Better plan; most also believe that the bill’s clean energy policies will help people like them (ReleaseDeckTopline)
  • Vox/Data for Progress - Voters continue to support the Build Back Better plan by a two-to-one margin after a brief explanation; majorities also support the CEPP and resist arguments to cut clean energy performance goals from the bill (ArticleTopline)
  • Yale Program on Climate Change Communication & George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication - Global warming has risen as a priority throughout the electorate since the beginning of the year; specific policies to boost renewables, incentivize energy efficiency, and conserve lands and waters have cross-partisan support (ArticleReport)
  • Pew - Two-thirds of Americans perceive a rise in extreme weather; nearly half recall extreme weather in their own area over the past 12 months (ArticleTopline)
  • Environmental Defense Action Fund - New rules to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas industry have broad public backing, and communicating about new jobs in methane mitigation can enhance support (Memo)
  • Global Strategy Group - Top messages in favor of climate action and clean energy focus on health, future generations, and rebuilding an economy that works for all Americans (Deck)

 

GOOD DATA POINTS TO HIGHLIGHT

  • 75% of voters support setting aside 30% of America’s lands and waters for conservation by 2030 [Yale/GMU
  • Voters support the full $3.5 trillion Build Back Better plan by a two-to-one margin (62%-30%) after reading a brief description including its price tag and major provisions [Navigator]
  • 72% of voters believe that the provision to create clean, renewable energy jobs that help combat climate change is a good reason to pass the Build Back Better plan [Navigator]
  • 71% of voters support stronger rules to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas industry [Environmental Defense Action Fund]
  • 70% of voters support transitioning the U.S. economy to 100% clean energy by 2050 [Yale/GMU]  
  • 70% of voters support increasing federal funding to low-income communities and communities of color who are disproportionately harmed by air and water pollution [Yale/GMU]
  • 69% of voters say that developing clean energy sources should be a high or very high priority for the president and Congress [Yale/GMU]
  • 67% of Americans believe that extreme weather events in the U.S. are happening more often than in the past [Pew]
  • 66% of voters support requiring electric utilities to produce 100% of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2035 [Yale/GMU
  • 62% of voters believe that the Build Back Better plan’s provision to create clean, renewable energy jobs that help combat climate change would help people like them [Navigator]
  • Voters support a new Clean Electricity Performance Program by a two-to-one margin (63%-31%) [Vox/Data for Progress]
  • 60% of voters say global warming should be a high or very high priority for the president and Congress [Yale/GMU]
  • 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 and the economy [Economist/YouGov]

 

FULL ROUNDUP

Navigator - Fairer taxes, lower prescription drug prices, and expanded Medicare coverage are key rationales for voters to support the Build Back Better plan; most also believe that the bill’s clean energy policies will help people like them (Release, Deck, Topline)

Navigator’s latest national tracking poll includes a deep dive on the Build Back Better plan, its component policies, and arguments in favor of it.

Overall, they find that voters support the full $3.5 trillion dollar version by a two-to-one margin (62% support / 30% oppose) after reading a one-sentence description that includes some of its major provisions.

The poll also asked about 12 specific provisions and asked respondents both a.) how good of a reason the provision is as a reason to pass the plan and b.) how much the provision will help people like them. This focus on personal impacts is a particularly useful exercise because, while the plan consistently polls well, recent polls show that voters know little about the bill’s specifics or about how the bill will personally help them.

Navigator finds quite a lot of overlap between the provisions that are most compelling as reasons to pass the plan and the provisions that voters perceive as most beneficial to them personally. 

Majorities rate each of these provisions as “very good” reasons to pass the plan:

  • Giving Medicare the power to negotiate for lower drug prices (56% very good reason)
  • Raising taxes on the rich and corporations to make sure they pay their fair share (54%)
  • Expanding Medicare to cover dental, vision, and hearing coverage (54%)
  • Lowering health insurance premiums for people who buy health care on their own (52%)
  • Not raising taxes on those earning less than $400,000 annually (51%)

These are also the five provisions that voters are most likely to believe will have a positive impact on people like them. Two-thirds or more believe that people like them will benefit from giving Medicare the power the to negotiate for lower drug prices (74% believe this will help people like them), expanding Medicare coverage (70%), raising taxes on the rich and corporations (67%), and not raising taxes on those earning less than $400,000 (67%).

It’s also notable that most voters (62%) believe the provision to create “clean, renewable energy jobs that help combat climate change” will help people like them. While this provision doesn’t test quite as well as a rationale for passing the plan as the top items above (45% rate the clean energy component as a “very good reason” to pass the plan), this new poll is consistent with a lot of previous polling showing that climate and clean energy components have a net positive impact on voters’ perceptions of the Build Back Better plan.

Navigator also tested three different arguments about the bill’s cost:

  • An argument that the plan is not going to cost Americans making less than $400,000 a year a penny in new taxes and will lower costs for working families and seniors by lowering health insurance and prescription drug costs and providing paid family leave
  • An argument stating that the plan will cost the American government and the American people $0 on net because it is funded by increasing taxes on the wealthy and corporations
  • An argument stating that the plan will cost the American government $0 because it is paid for by increasing taxes on the wealthy and corporations, in contrast to the Trump tax cut that added $2 trillion to the debt

Voters rate the pro-Build Back Better argument clarifying that taxes won’t be raised on anyone making less than $400,000 as slightly more convincing (61% convincing) than either of the arguments that claim it will cost $0 (56% convincing for the argument that mentions the Trump tax cut and 53% for the argument that claims it will cost $0 on net without mentioning the Trump tax cut). 

There are a couple of plausible interpretations here, including that voters don’t totally buy the argument that the plan “costs $0” and that they don’t particularly care about the cost as long as it’s clarified that most households won’t see their taxes increased and may even see their expenses go down.

 

Vox/Data for Progress - Voters continue to support the Build Back Better plan by a two-to-one margin after a brief explanation; majorities also support the CEPP and resist arguments to cut clean energy performance goals from the bill (Article, Topline)

Like the Navigator poll above, this new poll from Vox and Data for Progress finds that voters support the full $3.5 trillion version of the Build Back Better plan by a two-to-one margin when they read a one-sentence description including its price tag and major provisions (63% support / 21% oppose).

The poll also asked separately about the Clean Electricity Performance Program and found that voters support it by a 63%-31% margin when they see it described 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.” 

Further, when exposed to arguments both for including the CEPP in the Build Back Better plan (focusing on how it will improve service, lower costs, and reduce pollution) and cutting the CEPP from the Build Back Better plan (focusing on how utilities are already starting to use more clean energy without government intervention), voters end up wanting the CEPP provision to remain in the bill by a 53%-36% margin.

Whether the CEPP ends up in the bill or not, this poll adds to a growing body of public opinion data showing that voter support for a clean energy performance standard is both high and durable in the face of opposition messaging.

 

Yale Program on Climate Change Communication & George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication - Global warming has risen as a priority throughout the electorate since the beginning of the year; specific policies to boost renewables, incentivize energy efficiency, and conserve lands and waters have cross-partisan support (Article, Report)

The latest version of the biannual Yale/GMU Politics & Global Warming report is out, and shows that support for climate action is on the rise among voters across the political spectrum. This is particularly encouraging because their previous report, in March, showed a dip in Republican voters’ support on several key metrics shortly after Biden took office.

In their latest data, three in five voters (60%) say that global warming should be a “high” or “very high” priority for the president and Congress. This includes virtually all self-identified liberal Democrats (94%, up from 88% in March), four in five moderate-to-conservative Democrats (80%, up from 78% in March), a majority of independents (53%, up from 47%  in March) and rising numbers of liberal-to-moderate Republicans (45%, up from 35% in March) and conservative Republicans (17%, up from 12% in March).

The consensus that the government should be prioritizing the development of clean energy sources is even higher, with 69% saying it should be a “high” or “very high” priority for the president and Congress - including a now-majority of liberal-to-moderate Republicans (56%, up from 44% in March).

The poll also asked about 11 specific policies to help combat climate change and found that most have bipartisan majority support, including:

  • Providing tax incentives or rebates to make existing buildings more energy efficient (86% support overall, 73% among Republicans)
  • Providing tax rebates for people who purchase energy-efficient vehicles or solar panels (81% support overall, 65% among Republicans)
  • Funding more research into renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power (81% support overall, 64% among Republicans)
  • Providing tax incentives or rebates to purchase appliances that can be powered without burning fossil fuels (79% support overall, 61% among Republicans)
  • Setting aside 30% of America’s lands and waters for conservation by 2030 (75% support overall, 56% among Republicans)
  • Regulating carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas, as a pollutant (75% support overall, 51% among Republicans)
  • Requiring publicly traded corporations to to disclose how much carbon pollution they produce (74% support overall, 53% among Republicans)

Despite high Republican support for specific clean energy policies, however, there is still a high degree of skepticism among Republican voters that the clean energy transition will have a net positive economic impact.

By a 52%-31% margin, voters believe that government policies intended to transition away from fossil fuels and toward clean energy are more likely to improve economic growth and create jobs than to reduce growth and cost jobs. Among Republicans, however, just 22% believe these policies will have a positive economic impact and 59% believe they will have a negative economic impact.

Additionally, while voters widely believe that increasing clean energy production is more likely to create good jobs than increasing fossil fuel production (64% clean energy production / 35% fossil fuel production), these figures are essentially inverted among Republican voters: just 33% of Republicans believe that clean energy is more likely to produce good jobs, while 66% believe that fossil fuel production is more likely to produce good jobs. 

There is a notable split among Republicans by ideology on this question, as non-conservative Republicans narrowly believe that clean energy is the better job producer (52% clean energy / 47% fossil fuels) while conservative Republicans overwhelmingly believe that fossil fuels are a better job producer (22% clean energy / 77% fossil fuels) - a good reminder that Republican views on the energy transition are far from monolithic. 

 

Pew - Two-thirds of Americans perceive a rise in extreme weather; nearly half recall extreme weather in their own area over the past 12 months (Article, Topline)

This new data from Pew shows that extreme weather remains a salient issue for everyday Americans, with 67% saying that extreme weather events in the U.S. are happening more often than in the past and 46% saying they’ve personally experienced extreme weather where they live in the past year.

Pew broke the responses down by region and found that, while beliefs that extreme weather is on the rise tend to be highest in more traditionally Democratic areas like New England (78% say it’s happening more often) and the Pacific coast (74%), self-reported experiences with extreme weather don’t hew to the same partisan contours. 

The region where Americans are most likely to say they’ve personally experienced extreme weather in the past 12 months is the “West South Central” (73%), spanning Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Arkansas. 

It’s a notable finding that in these polarized times, when partisans seem to increasingly interpret “extreme weather” as a proxy for “climate change” and adjust their beliefs accordingly, it’s still hard for Americans to deny what’s happening in their own communities.

Environmental Defense Action Fund - New rules to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas industry have broad public backing, and communicating about new jobs in methane mitigation can enhance support (Memo)

Recent polling has shown that, while understanding of methane as a pollutant is low, voters widely back rules to curb methane emissions when they learn basic information on the topic. 

This new poll from EDAF further demonstrates public support for strengthening rules to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas industry; 71% of voters support stronger methane rules, including nearly three-quarters of independents (73%), half of Republicans (50%), and a majority of rural voters (61%).

The poll also finds that communicating about methane mitigation jobs has a lot of potential as a persuasion tactic, including among audiences that are traditionally hard to convince. Majorities across the electorate say they would be more likely to support stronger methane rules if it could lead to more jobs in the methane mitigation industry, including 64% of voters overall, 62% of blue collar voters, and 59% of rural voters. 

 

Global Strategy Group - Top messages in favor of climate action and clean energy focus on health, future generations, and rebuilding an economy that works for all Americans (Deck)

This new deck from Andrew Baumann at polling firm Global Strategy Group includes a wealth of insights drawn both from public polls and the firm’s work for groups across the environmental movement. 

It’s well worth browsing in full, and top-testing messaging and language on specific topics is included in the back end of the deck. Excerpted below:

“Recommended Language: The Core Climate and Health Message

Our leaders have a duty to listen to our nation’s most respected experts – and a basic responsibility to leave a better world for our kids. But unchecked pollution from dirty and outdated energy sources is putting the health and future of our children at risk. 

The coronavirus pandemic has shown us what happens when we don’t listen to the experts. We can’t afford to make the same mistakes when it comes to climate change. Ninety-seven percent of scientists, NASA, and the Department of Defense all agree that climate change is a threat to our kids’ futures, and we are already seeing its impact, in the form of increasingly strange and severe weather, wildfires, and droughts (and/or hurricanes and floods). 

By encouraging a transition to clean energy, climate action will not only dramatically reduce the carbon pollution that is disrupting our climate, but also the sulfur and arsenic pollution that cause asthma, heart and lung disease, and even cancer – especially in children.

Recommended Language: Supporting Messaging

Clean Energy and the Economy: As we recover from the coronavirus crisis, we should focus on rebuilding an economy that works for regular Americans, not CEOs, by making investments that will create high-quality jobs for all kinds of people right now and provide benefits to the country for decades to come. Investing in clean energy will create millions of good-paying (middle-class/union) jobs starting right now while protecting our kids’ health, spurring innovation and economic growth, and combating climate change in the long-term.

Costs: The cost of coal and fracked gas are volatile, often resulting in spikes in the price that families have to pay for their power. Meanwhile, the cost of wind and solar power is ALREADY cheaper than coal and fracked gas in most parts of the country, and it only continues to drop – in fact, Stanford researchers say that moving to wind and solar will eventually save the average family over a thousand dollars a year in energy and health costs. 

Environmental Justice: Every community deserves a fair opportunity to thrive, but low-income communities (including communities of color/be they white or communities of color) have paid the highest price for our dependence on dirty energy sources in the form of polluted air and water and greater levels of asthma, cancer, and birth defects. That’s why it’s so important that we make a transition to clean energy where everyone benefits, no community is left behind, and these communities receive a fair share of the investment. 

The Transition in Energy-Producing States: Current economic trends mean that a transition from coal, oil, and fracked gas to renewable energy is inevitable - it’s just a matter of how and when. By embarking on a thoughtful transition to renewable energy now, (STATE/REGION) can make the transition on our own terms, become a national leader, and create thousands of good jobs over the coming decade as we build, install and service the solar and wind farms needed to replace electricity from coal/fracked gas while making sure that coal/gas workers get training, transfer to new jobs, and/or retire early as we make this transition.”