Yale Poll Shows Strong Public Support for Protecting the Environment
Posted May 3, 2012 in Solving Global Warming
Not only do a majority of Americans want global warming and clean energy to be priorities, they believe protecting the environment is good for economic growth and they’re willing to pay more to get electricity from renewable sources like the sun and wind.
These findings from a recent nationwide poll by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication also support other recent surveys that U.S. citizens strongly back initiatives to limit carbon pollution, such as California’s groundbreaking AB 32 law to gradually reduce greenhouse gas emissions through a cap-and-trade program and other measures.
The Yale-George Mason study underscored that Americans believe global warming should be a priority of the president and Congress (72%) and more should be done by corporations and industry (70%) and citizens, themselves (67%).
Meanwhile, a whopping 83 percent said protecting the environment either improves economic growth and provides new jobs or has no effect. But even if there is a conflict, 62 percent of respondents believe it’s still more important to protect the environment. In fact, more than two-thirds of Americans (68%) say the United States should make either a large-scale or medium scale effort to reduce global warming, even if it leads to large or moderate economic costs.
Americans also want more clean energy sources, with an overwhelming majority of those surveyed (92 %) saying this should be a priority for the president and Congress. And 61 percent of Americans support holding the fossil fuel industry (coal, oil and natural gas) responsible for “all the hidden costs we pay for citizens who get sick from polluted air and water, military costs to maintain our access to foreign oil, and the environmental costs of spills and accidents.” These results dovetail with another new poll that showed a large majority of small business owners support government investments in clean energy, and believe that investments in clean energy can create jobs and boost the economy.
The Yale-George Mason study also indicates Americans are willing to pay more for clean energy. In fact, 63 percent would support requiring utilities to produce at least one-fifth of their electricity from renewable energy sources – even if this would increase household costs by $100 annually.
Together, these various surveys appear to conflict with some of the conclusions reached in a report released in April by the AB 32 Implementation Group, which claims opposition is increasing for AB 32 and its cap-and-trade auction due to a variety of concerns -- including a potential for lost jobs and higher energy bills for consumers. Even so, more than half the respondents in the lobbying group’s survey said they support AB 32 and believe global warming “needs to be seriously addressed.” Furthermore, when provided with a basic description of cap-and-trade, 56 percent favor the program. (Some small business owners have responded to the poll by reiterating their support for AB 32 and the idea that “a clean environment and a healthy economy go hand-in-hand”).
The Yale-George Mason survey and other polls provide insight into how voters view climate change and its related issues. What’s most encouraging is that these polls show that there is growing public support for clean energy and voters are realizing the benefits that come along with investing in it – jobs and a strong economy.