The Presidential Climate Action Project (PCAP) recently completed the first of four polls it has commissioned from Harris Interactive to track public opinion about the presidential candidates and global climate change.
The results so far (here): Nearly half of the people likely to vote in the presidential election aren’t sure which of the candidates has the strongest policy. Twenty-two percent think it’s Obama; 21 percent think it’s Clinton; and 8 percent think it’s McCain. Forty-nine percent have no idea.
In other words, a big part of the voting population is waiting to be impressed. Their votes are a prize waiting to be won.
It’s not that the “don’t knows” are indifferent to the issue. The poll found that 63 percent of likely voters believe it’s important for the next president to address climate change soon after taking office. Forty-one percent believe that presidential action is “extremely” or “very” important.
Instead, the findings seem to suggest that voters are confused about the candidates’ climate positions because the candidates aren’t talking enough about the issue. As Newsday‘s opinion staff put it (here), the poll results are “pretty solid evidence that the candidates all need to talk more about the little matter of saving the planet, and spend a lot less time on gotcha issues that mean nothing.”
[JR: Who is it really that is spending all their time on the gotcha issues that mean nothing -- the candidates, or the media? "... in the debates in which five Sunday-morning television anchors -- George Stephanopoulos, Tim Russert, Wolf Blitzer, Chris Wallace and Bob Schieffer -- have participated (17 in total) and in their major interviews with the candidates (176 in total) only eight of the 2,372 questions asked have mentioned global warming or climate change."]
Harris polled more than 2,000 adults in the survey, weighted to reflect the U.S. population. PCAP and Harris plan to conduct the next three polls between now and the election to track how the results change.
We don’t know what the candidates’ polls are telling them, but this poll suggests that when people are asked about climate change directly, rather than ranking it among two dozen other issues, there is clear concern and clear support for the next president to tackle it soon. It’s time for the candidates to talk about it. [And the media!]
– Bill Becker