USA TODAY US Edition
Poll: Support slips for measures aimed at curbing global warming
From gas-mileage standards to tax breaks for windmills, public support for “green” energy measures to tackle global warming has dropped significantly in the past two years, particularly among Republicans, a new poll suggests.
Majorities still favor most such tax breaks or restrictions on industry, according to the Stanford University poll. It shows 65% support gas-mileage standards and 73% support tax breaks for wind and solar power. But just 43% support tax breaks for nuclear power and 18% support hiking taxes on home electricity.
Overall, support for various steps to cut greenhouse gas emissions has dropped an aver- age of 10 percentage points since 2010, from 72% to 62%, lead researcher Jon Krosnick says. “Most Americans (62%) still support industry taking steps aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions,” Krosnick says, “but they hate the idea of consumer taxes to do it.” His group’s nationwide polls compared responses from 1,001 people in 2010 to 1,428 people this year.
In 2010, the National Academy of Sciences called for “strong federal policies” to curb greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels, such as oil, gasoline, coal and natural gas. It warned that “climate change is occurring” and said these fuels are partly to blame.
Public opinion experts, including Drexel University’s Robert Brulle, point to declining news coverage of global warm- ing for the falling support of steps to fight greenhouse gases; others cite the economy’s doldrums.
Krosnick suggests that distrust of environmental scientists among Republican voters (41%) may explain much of the drop. Such distrust was not seen as strongly among independent (31%) and Democratic voters (16%), he says. The average drop in support for these policies was about 7 percentage points among those who identified as Democrats or independents vs. 14 points for Republicans.
Since Republican Sen. John Mccain expressed support for steps to slow global warming during the 2008 presidential race, “we have seen a significant shift in political rhetoric in the primary races in Republican debates,” Krosnick says. (Mccain says he no longer supports such steps.)
Brulle says the effect of the economy on views about climate change needs to be more carefully studied.
Even if the public supports fixes for global warming, Brulle says, “opinion on climate change and environmental issues overall” has consistently been a low priority. Just 1% of people ranked the environment as a “top concern” in a Gallup Poll in March.