This post includes climate and environment headlines, data points, and key takeaways from recent public polls - including a new messaging experiment to determine the most persuasive ways to talk about clean energy costs, findings from Yale’s latest mapping of climate change attitudes across the country, new polling on corporate accountability, and a new poll on Texas voters’ attitudes about climate and clean energy a year after the Texas Freeze.
- Climate Power + Data for Progress - Messages about energy cost savings greatly boost support for clean energy investment; the most effective messaging frames vary by audience, with proof points about cost savings from renewables more persuasive with “base” audiences and a focus on energy independence more persuasive with right-of-center audiences (Memo)
- Yale Program on Climate Change Communication - Americans across the country, including in rural and conservative areas, are growing increasingly aware of the here-and-now impacts of global warming (Article, Interactive Mapping Tool)
- JUST Capital + Public Citizen + Ceres - Americans overwhelmingly support mandatory corporate disclosures of climate data and agree that companies have a responsibility to reduce their environmental impacts (Release, Full Report)
- Climate Nexus + Yale + GMU (Texas) - One year after the Texas Freeze, Texas voters overwhelmingly want their state to produce more renewable energy and believe renewables should be prioritized over other energy sources (Topline)
GOOD DATA POINTS TO HIGHLIGHT
- 94% of Americans say that it’s important for the country’s largest companies to be transparent about their environmental impact [JUST Capital + Public Citizen + Ceres]
- 88% of Americans say that the country’s largest companies have a responsibility to reduce their environmental impact [JUST Capital + Public Citizen + Ceres]
- 87% of Americans say that it’s important for the country’s largest companies to publicly report data on their climate impact [JUST Capital + Public Citizen + Ceres]
- 86% of Americans support federal requirements for corporate disclosure of climate metrics [JUST Capital + Public Citizen + Ceres]
- More Americans say that climate change and the environment is the single most important issue to them than any other issue besides health care and the economy [Economist/YouGov]
- [Texas] 80% of Texas voters agree that “being a leader in clean energy innovation is important to Texas’s future” [Climate Nexus + Yale + GMU]
- [Texas] 69% of Texas voters believe that climate change is having at least “some” effect on extreme weather events in Texas [Climate Nexus + Yale + GMU]
- [Texas] 68% of Texas voters support requiring utility companies in Texas to generate 100% of their electricity from clean, renewable sources, like wind and solar, by the year 2035 [Climate Nexus + Yale + GMU]
- [Texas] 64% of Texas voters believe that climate change had at least “some” effect on the severe winter storms in Texas in February 2021 [Climate Nexus + Yale + GMU]
- [Texas] By a greater than two-to-one margin (62% agree / 29% disagree), Texas voters agree that “the primary goal of Texas’s energy policy should be achieving 100% clean power, which means phasing out all fossil fuels used to generate electricity” [Climate Nexus + Yale + GMU]
Climate Power + Data for Progress
Messages about energy cost savings greatly boost support for clean energy investment; the most effective messaging frames vary by audience, with proof points about cost savings from renewables more persuasive with “base” audiences and a focus on energy independence more persuasive with right-of-center audiences (Memo)
From a public opinion standpoint, the debate over the costs of transitioning to clean essentially is the debate over the United States’ energy future. The public generally agrees that clean energy sources are better than fossil fuels on nearly every metric: better for people’s health, better for their children’s future, and better for the planet. However, everyday Americans are less convinced that the transition to clean energy will save them money. So if climate advocates can win the argument over clean energy costs, then opponents of the clean energy transition will be left without a persuasive case to make.
Determining the most effective messaging about clean energy costs, as Climate Power and Data for Progress did here, is therefore critical to the climate movement’s goals. Using a sample of over 3,200 voters, Climate Power and Data for Progress tested eight different messages about lowering utility bills to determine which were most effective at shifting voters in favor of President Biden and Democrats’ economic plan and its investments in clean energy.
As this memo states, all eight messages boosted support for the plan by double-digit margins. Excerpting from the “Conclusion” section of the memo: “Messaging about energy cost savings increases support for investments in clean energy. Among all voters, messaging about lowering costs increases the margin of support for a plan to transition America to clean energy between +10 and +24 points, depending on the message. Among key subgroups such as voters under 45 and Hispanic voters, the increase in the margin of support is even higher. Though federal investments in clean energy are broadly popular, emphasizing the cost-saving benefits can break through the noise about inflation and rising energy costs, especially among core constituency groups.”
The specific messages that rose to the top in the experiment vary by audience: a message about energy independence resonates especially strongly with Republicans and college educated voters, messages about renewables costing less and saving households money resonate more with Democrats and voters of color, and independents are about equally persuaded by messages about energy independence and the fact that renewables won’t run out.
Here are the most effective individual messages from the experiment:
- [Energy independence] This plan will help accelerate the production of cheaper, cleaner energy here in America that isn’t impacted by foreign supply chain disruptions and conflicts overseas.
- [Renewables won’t run out] The plan will help us transition to renewable energy sources that won’t run out, like wind and solar energy, which expands our energy supply and will lower costs for consumers and businesses.
- [Broad savings] The plan will lower costs for working families by bringing down utility bills, reducing prescription drug prices, and lowering the cost of health insurance.
- [Renewables cost less] Because the cost of clean energy sources like wind and solar energy has already fallen dramatically and is getting cheaper each year, the plan will help lower energy bills for households and businesses.
- [$500/year savings] A study from economic researchers showed that the plan would save households an average of $500 per year in reduced energy costs.
Yale Program on Climate Change Communication
The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication (YPCCC) just went live with updated Climate Opinion Maps, utilizing fresh data from their 2021 surveys, which allow anybody to hone in on key attitudinal metrics about climate change and clean energy all the way down to the state, county, metro area, or congressional district level.
And in unveiling the new maps, the YPCCC highlighted some notable shifts between the previous edition of the maps from 2018 and the new maps using 2021 data - including that there have been particularly noteworthy changes in people’s climate opinions in rural areas and conservative states over the past few years. Pulling from the article linked above:
“Comparisons between our YCOM 2018 and new YCOM 2021 maps (Fig. 2) illustrate an important shift in national and local climate change beliefs. For example, we find a substantial increase in the number of rural counties with majorities that think that global warming is already harming people in the US now or within the next 10 years, especially across northern states such as Oregon and Montana and along the Atlantic coast, including Florida and South Carolina.
Our surveys have shown that support for climate policy has increased nationally, and the latest maps show where, at the state level, this is occurring. Four new states – Utah, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Iowa – now have majorities that want their own Governors to do more to address global warming (Fig. 3). Increasing incidents of extreme weather in communities across the country, including stronger storms, more uncontrollable wildfires, and more intense heat waves are likely a key factor in these opinion changes, but changes in leadership, political discourse, and media coverage are likely also important factors.”
JUST Capital + Public Citizen + Ceres
This new corporate accountability poll, commissioned by JUST Capital in collaboration with Public Citizen and Ceres, highlights one of the most important pathways to bring partisan audiences into agreement on climate: while partisanship generally divides people on the issue of government action to combat climate change, there is widespread agreement across party lines that corporate America needs to take serious action to address the climate crisis.
For example, commanding majorities - including overwhelming majorities of Republicans - believe that large companies have responsibilities to be transparent about how their business practices impact the environment and climate and to curtail those impacts. Pulling out some of the notable data points from the survey:
- 94% of Americans (including 90% of Republicans) say that it’s at least “somewhat” important for America’s largest companies to be transparent about their environmental impact
- 88% of Americans (including 81% of Republicans) say that America’s largest companies have at least “some” responsibility to reduce their environmental impact by using sustainable materials and renewable energy
- 87% of Americans (including 77% of Republicans) say that it’s at least “somewhat” important for America’s largest companies to publicly report data about their climate impacts
- 86% of Americans (including 74% of Republicans) support the federal government requiring large companies to publicly report climate data
Climate Nexus + Yale + GMU (Texas)
One year after the Texas Freeze, Texas voters overwhelmingly want their state to produce more renewable energy and believe renewables should be prioritized over other energy sources (Topline)
This new poll from Climate Nexus, in collaboration with Yale and GMU, finds that Texas voters pin the blame for last February’s grid failure on the state government and utility companies - not on clean energy sources (despite misinformation efforts from opponents of clean energy).
Over three-quarters say that the Electric Reliability Council of Texas / ERCOT (84%), electric utility companies (78%), and the Public Utility Commission (PUC) of Texas (77%) are at least “somewhat” responsible for the electricity crisis that the state suffered during last year’s severe winter storms. And when asked directly about specific energy sources, Texas voters are more likely to blame fossil fuel power generators and power plants (which 60% say are at least “somewhat” responsible) for the crisis than renewable energy generators such as wind turbines (which 47% say are at least “somewhat” responsible).
The poll also shows that Texas voters can see the link between climate change and the type of severe weather that the state experienced last winter. The majority (64%) believe that climate change had at least “some” effect on the severe winter storms in the state last February, including 38% who believe that climate change had a “large” effect.
Moving forward, Texas voters clearly want to see the state place more emphasis on renewable energy sources and shift away from fossil fuels - but they need to be convinced about the urgency of moving away from methane gas. Large majorities want to see Texas produce more energy from solar (73% more / 3% less) and wind (68% more / 7% less), while far fewer want to see more energy produced from natural gas (42% more / 15% less) and coal (18% more / 40% less). That said, the fact that only 15% say they want the state to produce less energy from gas suggests that Texans, like most Americans, don’t yet grasp the dangers posed by methane gas.
Other questions in the survey further demonstrate how Texans widely support the transition to a 100% clean energy economy but feel somewhat conflicted about dropping gas as an energy source. For example, majorities say that it is an important priority for the state to reduce carbon pollution (80%) and transition to 100% clean, renewable energy (71%). At the same time, however, most also say that it’s an important priority for the state to build new gas power plants and pipelines (56%). These are obviously contradictory attitudes (and it should be noted that people hold contradictory attitudes about climate and the environment all the time), but the inconsistency is also at least partially explained by the fact that many everyday voters don’t perceive gas as a polluting energy source.
The poll also shows that when Texans are asked to make a choice between renewable energy and gas - both for the state’s future and in their own personal energy consumption - most prefer renewables. When asked whether it should be a higher priority for the state to invest more in renewable energy sources, nuclear power plants, or natural gas power plants, renewables (59%) are Texans’ clear top choice over gas power plants (21%) and nuclear power plants (9%). And when asked whether, all things equal, they would prefer that their electricity provider use coal, gas, or renewable energy, most Texans similarly choose renewable energy (55%) over gas (24%) or coal (4%).