Poll: Sup­port slips for mea­sures aimed at curb­ing global warm­ing

USA TODAY US Edition - - NATION - By Dan Vergano USA TO­DAY

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.

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