This post includes climate and environment headlines, data points, and key takeaways from recent public polls - including new polling on the Build Back Better plan, the economic risks of climate change, corporate accountability measures, environmental justice, and voters’ relative trust in the two parties to handle climate change.
- Monmouth University - Steady majorities of Americans continue to support the Build Back Better plan and its climate investments (Release, Full Report + Crosstabs)
- Evergreen Action + Data for Progress - Voters place nearly equal responsibility on the federal government and large corporations to address climate change; most believe the federal government should take action to shield the economy from climate risk (Release)
- As You Sow + Data for Progress - Voters are slightly more likely to support yearly, short-term emissions reduction goals for companies than a 2050 net-zero target; a majority support tying executive compensation to emissions reductions (Release, Topline)
- Data for Progress - Voters understand the need for environmental justice policies when they read an explanation in plain language about pollution impacting some communities more than others; voters of color have higher concerns about pollution, lead, and toxic mold (Topline)
- Pew Research Center, Fox News - Climate change is the Democratic Party’s biggest issue advantage over the Republican Party (Pew Release, Full Pew Report, Pew Topline, Fox News Release, Fox News Topline, Fox News Crosstabs)
GOOD DATA POINTS TO HIGHLIGHT
- 81% of voters believe the federal government has a responsibility to address climate change, including 51% who says it has “a lot” of responsibility [Evergreen Action + Data for Progress]
- 81% of voters believe that large corporations have a responsibility to address climate change, including 48% who say they have “a lot” of responsibility [Evergreen Action + Data for Progress]
- 73% of voters believe that climate change poses a threat to the U.S. economy, including 39% who believe it is a “significant” threat to the economy [Evergreen Action + Data for Progress]
- 72% of voters support companies reducing their carbon emissions by 5% a year for the next ten years to achieve a 50% reduction by 2030 [Data for Progress]
- 70% of voters support companies committing to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 [Data for Progress]
- 68% of voters support the federal government’s initiative to build new electric vehicle charging stations across the country [Data for Progress]
- 65% of voters agree that we need to place stricter limits on hazardous air pollution to help communities that are located closer to pollution sources [Data for Progress]
- 62% of voters believe the federal government should take actions to reduce the risks that climate change poses to the economy [Evergreen Action + Data for Progress]
- Americans support the Build Back Better plan by a 61%-36% margin after hearing a brief description including some of its major provisions [Monmouth]
- 58% of voters support tying company executives’ compensation to a 5% carbon emissions reduction per year for the next ten years [Data for Progress]
- 56% of Americans support including “a significant amount of money to deal with climate change” in the Build Back Better plan [Monmouth]
- 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]
Like other pollsters, Monmouth has found that support for the Build Back Better plan has stayed very consistent over time even as President Biden’s approval ratings have dropped and negotiations over the bill have stuttered.
This latest poll finds that Americans support the plan by a 61%-36% margin when it’s described as a plan being considered by Congress that “would expand access to healthcare and childcare, and provide paid leave and college tuition support.” Monmouth has asked about the plan using similar language in six polls since April 2021, and has found support between 61% and 64% each time.
Monmouth followed this question up by explaining that the plan “also includes a significant amount of money to deal with climate change” and asking respondents whether they “support or oppose the climate change part of the plan.” By a 56%-41% margin (essentially unchanged from the 56%-42% margin that Monmouth found on this question in December), Americans say that they specifically support the plan’s climate action component. This data becomes particularly relevant with the prospect of Build Back Better being sliced up into smaller bills, as it shows that Americans support the plan’s investment in climate action independent of the rest of the legislation.
Evergreen Action + Data for Progress
Voters place nearly equal responsibility on the federal government and large corporations to address climate change; most believe the federal government should take action to shield the economy from climate risk (Release)
The idea of holding corporate actors more accountable on climate change is generally very popular, and this new poll from Evergreen Action and Data for Progress shows that overwhelming majorities believe both large corporations (81% say they have at least “some” responsibility, including 48% who say they have “a lot” of responsibility) and the federal government (81% at least “some” responsibility, 51% “a lot” of responsibility) have responsibilities to address climate change.
The poll also finds that voters across the political spectrum recognize that climate change is a threat to the nation’s economy: nearly three-quarters of voters (73%) say that climate change poses at least “somewhat” of a threat to the U.S. economy, including majorities of Democrats (91%), independents (75%), and Republicans (54%). Nearly two in five voters (39%) rate climate change as a “significant” threat to the economy.
Accordingly, when asked whether the federal government should “take actions to reduce the risks that climate change poses to our economy,” voters support these types of measures by a two-to-one margin (62%-29%) - with support from 86% of Democrats, 63% of independents, and 37% of Republicans.
Polling from Data for Progress last year relatedly showed broad support for a wide range of specific reforms to help shield the economy from climate risk - including government action to regulate Wall Street’s investments in fossil fuels and other industries that contribute to climate change and requirements on public companies to disclose their climate-related financial risks and greenhouse gas emissions.
As You Sow + Data for Progress
Voters are slightly more likely to support yearly, short-term emissions reduction goals for companies than a 2050 net-zero target; a majority support tying executive compensation to emissions reductions (Release, Topline)
As You Sow and Data for Progress released more polling this week on corporate accountability measures, and this new release includes an interesting split-sample test on the descriptions of companies’ goals to reduce carbon emissions.
Half of respondents in the poll were asked whether they support companies “committing to reducing carbon emissions, which drive climate change, by 5% a year for the next ten years, to achieve 50% reduction by 2030.” The other half of respondents were asked whether they support companies “committing to reaching net-zero carbon emissions, which drive climate change, by 2050.”
Both of these stated goals have broad support, and voters are slightly more likely to support the goal of reducing emissions by 5% annually to achieve a 50% reduction by 2030 (72% support / 19% oppose, a 53-point margin) than the goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 (70% support / 20% oppose, a 48-point margin).
This type of language testing is especially important because, when it comes to emissions reductions goals, the devil is often in the details: voters overwhelmingly support goals to significantly reduce emissions by dates set years in the future, but have more mixed attitudes about the incremental steps required to achieve these goals (e.g., phasing out certain energy sources and banning new pipelines).
Here, As You Sow and Data for Progress show that describing an emissions reduction goal in terms of the modest, year-by-year changes required to meet it can help engender support. Policies tend to meet very strong public resistance when voters perceive them as disruptive to day-to-day life, and a 5% yearly decrease in emissions fortunately doesn’t seem to elicit that kind of reaction.
The poll also asked whether voters would support company executives’ compensation being linked to a 5% carbon emissions reduction per year for the next 10 years, and found that voters support this idea by a two-to-one margin (58%-29%). The proposal also has a good amount of cross-partisan support: Democrats (74% support / 15% oppose) and independents (57% support / 30% oppose) approve of the idea by wide margins, and Republicans are split roughly evenly (41% support / 45% oppose). This is yet another demonstration of how proposals that hold corporate actors responsible for acting on climate change tend to attract broad, cross-party support.
Data for Progress
Voters understand the need for environmental justice policies when they read an explanation in plain language about pollution impacting some communities more than others; voters of color have higher concerns about pollution, lead, and toxic mold (Topline)
Environmental justice is one of the trickiest environmental issues to gauge public opinion about, in large part because the public simply isn’t familiar with the language that advocates commonly use to talk about it (this 2020 poll conducted by WE ACT and the Environmental Defense Fund, for example, found that most Americans weren’t familiar with the term “environmental injustice”).
This confusion around environmental justice terminology makes it all the more important to use clear language and specific examples when communicating to the public about the need for environmental justice policies, as Data for Progress did in this poll. When presented with the two statements below in support and opposition of stricter limits on air pollution - with the supportive statement focused on how certain communities are at increased risk of asthma and other health problems because they live closer to pollution sources - 65% of voters agree more with the statement in support of stricter pollution limits:
- (Statement in support of stricter pollution limits): “Some communities are more likely to develop asthma and other health problems because they are located closer to sources of air pollution. We need to place stricter limits on hazardous air pollution to help these communities.”
- (Statement in opposition to stricter pollution limits): “We do not need to issue any more environmental regulations that are just another source of government bureaucracy and never result in any meaningful change.”
While neither of the statements explicitly evokes race, Black voters (85%) and Latino voters (70%) are considerably more likely to side with the statement in support of stricter pollution limits than White voters (61%).
Additionally, the poll found that race is a major predictor of voters’ personal concerns about different sources of pollution in their households. Concerns about pollution are particularly high among Black voters, as 46%+ say they are “very concerned” about air pollution, water pollution, toxic mold, and lead paint and water pipes in their homes. Among Latino voters, the percentages who say they are “very concerned” about these pollution sources range from 28% for lead paint and water pipes up to 49% for air pollution. And among White voters, less than one-third say they are “very concerned” about each type of pollution that the poll asked about.
Pew Research Center, Fox News
Our roundup last week included a poll from POLITICO and Morning Consult showing that climate change and the environment are the two issues on which voters are most likely to trust Democrats in Congress over Republicans in Congress, and new polls released this week by the Pew Research Center and Fox News provide more evidence that climate change is the Democratic Party’s single biggest issue advantage heading into the 2022 midterm elections. (It’s worth noting that Fox News actually has a reputable public polling operation, and their polls are conducted jointly by a Democratic polling firm and a Republican polling firm).
The new Pew poll asked Americans how much they agree with each party on eight major issue areas, and found that climate change is the issue on which Americans are most likely to say they agree with the Democratic Party (44%) and least likely to say they agree with the Republican Party (22%) - a difference of 22 points. The next-biggest issue advantage in the poll for either party was on health care, on which Americans are 16 points more likely to say they trust the Democratic Party (42%) than the Republican Party (26%).
Fox News similarly found that Democrats’ edge on climate change is the biggest issue advantage either party has over the other, with voters 22 points more likely to say they trust Democrats (58%) than Republicans (36%) to handle climate change. The next-biggest margins in the poll were Democrats’ 20-point advantage on racism (57%-37%), Democrats’ 16-point advantage on health care (55%-39%), and Republicans’ 16-point advantages on national security (56%-40%) and border security (56%-40%).
The crosstabs of the Fox News poll underline that there is a major wedge between the Republican Party and many of its own voters on the issue of climate change: about one-quarter of Republican voters (26%) trust Democrats over Republicans to handle climate change, making it the issue on which Republican voters are most likely to say they trust Democrats over their own party.