This post includes climate and environment headlines, data points, and key takeaways from recent public polls - including new polling on voters’ relative trust in the two parties to handle climate change, energy, and the environment; a new poll showing widespread pessimism about the country’s handling of climate change and the environment; and new polls about nuclear power nationwide and in California.
- POLITICO + Morning Consult - Climate change and the environment remain the two issues on which voters side most with Democrats in Congress over Republicans (Topline, Crosstabs)
- Economist + YouGov - Only one in five Americans believe the country is headed in the right direction on the environment and climate change (Topline, Crosstabs)
- Gallup - Americans are now slightly more likely to support than oppose using nuclear energy as a domestic electricity source (Article)
- Carbon Free California + FM3 Research + Data for Progress (California) - California voters lean toward keeping nuclear energy in the state’s power mix, while their support for natural gas has declined (Release, Deck)
GOOD DATA POINTS TO HIGHLIGHT
[California] 91% of California voters approve of solar energy as a source of electricity for the state [Carbon Free California + FM3 Research + Data for Progress]
[California] 81% of California voters approve of wind energy as a source of electricity for the state [Carbon Free California + FM3 Research + Data for Progress]
[National] More Americans say that climate change and the environment is the single most important issue to them than any other issue aside from the economy and health care [Economist + YouGov]
POLITICO + Morning Consult
POLITICO and Morning Consult have been regularly tracking which party is trusted more on various issues ahead of this year’s midterms, and one of the consistent findings in this polling is that congressional Democrats’ “trust” advantages on climate change and the environment are the two biggest issue advantages that either party has over the other.
Here are the issues that POLITICO and Morning Consult asked about, along with the margins by which voters trust one party in Congress over the other to handle each one:
Climate change - Democrats +20
The environment - Democrats +18
Health care - Democrats +14
Protecting Medicare and Social Security - Democrats +13
Coronavirus - Democrats +10
Voting rights - Democrats +8
Education - Democrats +7
Energy - Democrats +2
Gun policy - Republicans +3
Jobs - Republicans +4
Immigration - Republicans +10
National security - Republicans +10
The economy - Republicans +11
Inflation - Republicans +11
One important thing to note here is that, while Democrats in Congress are trusted far more than Republicans on climate change (Democrats +20) and the environment (Democrats +18), voters are much more divided on which party they trust more to handle energy (Democrats +2).
Congressional Democrats’ big advantages on climate and the environment are driven by wide margins among independent voters, who trust Democrats over Republicans by 24 points to handle the environment and by 21 points to handle climate change, and by Republican voters’ relative lack of trust in their own party to handle these two issues.
While 87%+ of Republican voters trust Republicans in Congress over Democrats to handle issues such as jobs, the economy, and national security, considerably lower majorities of Republicans say that they trust their party more to handle the environment (71%) or climate change (65%).
Economist + YouGov
This poll finds that Americans are in a pessimistic mood about nearly every issue facing the country. Of the 15 issues that the poll asked about, the one that Americans are most likely to feel is heading in the “right direction” is COVID-19 - and even then, the public is split (41% right direction / 42% wrong track.)
On the environment and climate change, Americans are three times more likely to say that the country is on the wrong track (60%) than to say that it is headed in the right direction (20%). For context, that’s about how pessimistic Americans are feeling about immigration (18% right direction / 62% wrong track) and abortion (18% right direction / 61% wrong track).
Democrats are generally more likely to say that the country is headed in the right direction on major issues than Republicans, which is to be expected with Democrats holding power in Washington. When it comes to the environment and climate change, however, Americans from every part of the political spectrum are feeling pessimistic - including majorities of Democrats (26% right direction / 59% wrong track), independents (16% right direction / 66% wrong track), and Republicans (20% right direction / 61% wrong track).
For comparison, self-identified Democrats are not nearly as pessimistic about the direction the country is headed on COVID-19 (51% right direction / 34% wrong track), jobs and the economy (44% right direction / 41% wrong track), or education (39% right direction / 45% wrong track). This poll therefore provides further evidence that Democratic voters are specifically attuned to, and discouraged by, the lack of climate action in Washington.
Americans are now slightly more likely to support than oppose using nuclear energy as a domestic electricity source (Article)
Gallup’s long-term tracking of attitudes towards different energy sources has revealed an upward trend in favor of using nuclear energy for electricity. For the first time in Gallup’s tracking since 2015, more Americans say they favor using nuclear energy as a source of electricity in the U.S. (51%) than oppose it (47%). As recently as 2016, Americans opposed using nuclear energy as a domestic power source by double digits (44% favor / 54% oppose).
And despite the Biden administration’s push to include nuclear energy in the formula to get the country to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, Gallup notes, nuclear energy remains unpopular among self-identified Democrats and among Americans who care the most about climate change. Pulling from the article:
“Despite Biden's promotion of nuclear energy, Democrats continue to be far less likely than Republicans to favor using it…
Currently, 39% of Democrats versus 60% of Republicans and 53% of independents favor nuclear energy. The 21-percentage-point gap between Republicans and Democrats is similar to the average for the past two decades.
More generally, it appears Biden has work to do to convince Americans who are highly concerned about climate change that nuclear power needs to be part of the green energy agenda. Gallup's Environment poll found that barely a third of Americans who worry "a great deal" about climate change favor the use of nuclear energy (34%), while 62% oppose it. By contrast, majorities of adults who worry "a fair amount" (53%) or less (70%) about climate change are supportive of nuclear energy.”
Carbon Free California + FM3 Research + Data for Progress (California)
This newly released poll focuses on California’s use of nuclear energy and includes a lot of findings about how the state’s voters are feeling about California’s energy situation in general.
The poll encouragingly finds that voters overwhelmingly approve of solar (91% approve, including 73% who say they “definitely” approve of it) and wind (81% approve, including 67% who “definitely” approve of it) being used as electricity sources for the state. A clear majority also approve of natural gas as an electricity source (71% approve), though with considerably less enthusiasm (40% “definitely” approve) than they feel about solar and wind.
Californians are relatively more split in their feelings about nuclear power, but over half approve of it being included in the state’s energy mix (54% approve / 36% disapprove).
The poll release also includes time-series trend data from 2013 for comparison. This trend data shows that, over the past nine years, Californians’ approval of nuclear (51% to 54%, +3) and solar (94% to 91%, -3) has barely budged, while there’s been a dip in approval of wind power (92% to 84%, -8) and a more sizable drop in approval of natural gas (89% to 71%, -18).
While the dip in approval of wind energy is clearly worth investigating, it’s notable that, over the past decade, Californians went from approving of solar, wind, and natural gas by very similar margins to favoring wind and solar by clear margins over natural gas.