Recent polls show broad, enduring support for climate action

David Moulton.

Copenhagen failed to get a legally binding international agreement on climate action. The voters of Massachusetts elected a Republican running against healthcare reform. Now is an appropriate time to test the public’s staying power when it comes to ameliorating the worst effects of climate change.

The Wilderness Society’s review of recent public opinion polling on climate and energy issues suggests that contrary to the naysayers, the public’s support for action is deep and resilient in favor of capping global warming pollution, increasing energy independence, and relying more on clean renewable sources of energy.

Despite American voter anger over government handling of issues like healthcare reform, climate action still enjoys widespread support. A poll of Massachusetts voters taken immediately after Republican Scott Brown was elected to the U.S. Senate to replace the late Democrat Edward Kennedy found that:

  • 79% of Democrats, 56% of Independents and 42% of Republicans still support the Senate climate bill after the election surprise
  • 56% of Massachusetts voters would be more likely to re-elect their Senator if he votes in favor of a bill that caps global warming emissions

The poll also found that Massachusetts constituents feel that making America more energy independent is the number one priority (73% say very important, 95% say important) and they place investing in clean American energy sources as the number three priority, ahead of issues like “reforming health care” and “cutting taxes.”

These findings after the Massachusetts election are consistent with other recent polls of national public sentiment. A January 2010 poll by Yale and George Mason University found that 89 percent of registered voters support funding more research into renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, and 61 percent think that developing sources of clean energy should be a high (37%) or very high (24%) priority for the president and Congress. Benenson found that respondents supported a cap-and-trade system by 58 percent, including 37 percent support among Republicans (see graphic below). Both Yale/George Mason and The Washington Post found very similar results regarding support of cap and trade in the same time frame — 58 percent.

Support and oppose percentages for energy bill that contains cap<br />
and trade.