Seventy-one percent of likely voters say they like the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) passed by the House of Representatives earlier this summer. Two-thirds of them think Congress either should be doing more (45 percent) or is doing the right amount (22 percent) to address climate change, according to the July 31-Aug. 4 telephone poll of 1,005 likely voters.
Participants seemed to give the Senate a green light to pass its own climate bill this fall, with 54 percent saying the Senate should take action soon, and 41 percent saying it should wait. They were asked if they agreed with one of two statements:
Statement A: I think the Senate should take action because I believe we need a new energy plan right now that invests in American, renewable energy sources like wind and solar, in order to create clean energy jobs, address global warming and reduce our dependency on foreign oil. (54 percent)
Statement B: I think the Senate should wait on this proposal I believe the House energy bill is a hidden tax that will cost thousands of dollars every year in increased energy prices, weaken our economy further, and cause America to lose jobs to China and other countries. (41 percent)
The poll results also suggest that doomsday messages that ACES would destroy American jobs have largely fallen flat. It found that 51 percent of participants believe “efforts to reduce global warming and promote clean energy” would create new jobs; 17 percent thought they wouldn’t affect jobs and 29 percent predicted they would cost jobs. A slight majority (53 percent) of self-described political independents thought those efforts would create jobs, and 24 percent thought jobs would be lost.
There was evidence of bipartisan support too, with 45 percent of Republicans and 73 percent of independents reporting a favorable opinion of ACES, also known as the Waxman-Markey (or cap-and-trade) bill.
NWF wanted to conduct the poll shortly after the storm of pro- and anti-ACES ads that accompanied the late-June vote, NWF spokesman Miles Grant said.
“The debate going on in the media today makes it sound like it’s such a narrow, controversial issue,” he said. “Even after [hearing arguments from both sides], these likely voters are still heavily in favor of the ACES bill.
“This isn’t about who’s writing phony letters to members of Congress or who’s making up numbers. We laid out some basic arguments for the voters to see what they think. And they picked clean energy and climate action.”
NWF collected a lot of information it didn’t release—including the opinions of likely voters by age, race, location, income, education level, religion, and other demographics. It also asked participants whether they were NASCAR fans, members of the “investment class,” or frequent Wal-Mart shoppers, but it didn’t disclose how those these factors matched with opinions.
When asked to provide that information, Grant said it was a “matter of policy” at NWF not to release all demographic data, and that some demographic questions are determined by Zogby “package” polls. Holding on to this information sends a weird signal and could provide fodder to climate skeptics convinced that NWF only released findings it likes. Revealing the full demographic info might only confirm predictable divisions—high climate-bill support among the wealthy and highly educated, less among Southerners and seniors, for example. But transparency would give more credibility to the whole project.
More than anything, the NWF-sponsored poll suggests how malleable public opinion can be on complex legislation, and how much the wording of questions can influence results. For comparison’s sake, a poll last month from Worldpublicopinion.org found that only 52 percent of Americans wanted their government to do more to address climate change, the lowest support among 19 countries.