New poll: The public trusts EPA, loves the Clean Air Act, and wants Congress to butt out
Original photo: Matt CramptonAs everyone knows by now, Republicans have launched a massive, coordinated assault on EPA, attempting to block its greenhouse gas regulations, its air and water regulations, and in some cases its very existence. In the surreal hothouse atmosphere of the Beltway, where anti-government radicals are ascendant and everybody’s watching the same three cable news channels, this can seem reasonable — even inevitable.
But if we can collectively pull our heads out of the Beltway’s ass and take in a wider view of the country, it quickly becomes clear that the Republican attack on EPA is radically unpopular with voters across parties and demographics.
The latest evidence comes from a nationwide survey done by the American Lung Association in partnership with polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner. Even for those of us who understand the public’s fondness for clean air, the results are striking.
The top line is this: The public overwhelmingly supports EPA in updating Clean Air Act standards and overwhelmingly opposes congressional efforts to block EPA. When it comes to clean air, the public trusts EPA far more than Congress.
Should EPA update Clean Air Act standards to make them stricter? Fully 69 percent of respondents somewhat or strongly agree, compared to 26 percent who somewhat or strongly oppose.
Another key fact: On this issue, unlike many others these days, independents line up with Democrats. Where 88 percent of Dems want standards updated, so do 68 percent of independents, compared with 49 percent of Republicans. (Note too that even among Republicans, support for strengthening standards outweighs opposition.)
Yet another key fact: The public does not distinguish greenhouse gas standards from other air quality standards. When asked about four specific regulations, CO2 standards were just as popular (77 percent support) as smog limits, even a hair more popular than vehicle fuel efficiency standards. Crucially, there was majority support in both parties for all four standards:
Should Congress block EPA from updating these standards? Sixty-eight percent say no. How about CO2 standards specifically? Still, 64 percent say no. (Again, independents side with Democrats on this.) The public trusts EPA in this area far more than Congress.
Interestingly, even after both sides’ talking points were presented at some length, support for EPA didn’t budge. The public simply agrees with Democrats:
Republican agitprop doesn’t seem to be having much effect. For instance, take the endlessly repeated point that EPA is “overreaching.” Does the public agree? No:
This poll is in line with previous polls, and the conclusion is inescapable: The public likes clean air. They like the Clean Air Act. They trust EPA to set appropriate standards for both conventional pollutants and for greenhouse gases. And they don’t want Congress interfering.
The problem is, in D.C. perception is reality, and perception is that the public hates “job-killing regulations” so it’s not worth having a high-profile fight over them. But D.C. is wrong. Obama and clean-air Dems are in an eminently winnable battle. The public is on their side. All they need now is spine.
Get Grist in your inbox