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Whos strongest on climate? Half the Country is Waiting to Decide

By Bill Becker

"Whos strongest on climate? Half the Country is Waiting to Decide"

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The Presidential Climate Action Project (PCAP) has just released details of the new public opinion poll I mentioned earlier this month in my post about national security.

As I reported then, the National Intelligence Council has issued a secret assessment that climate change is a threat to national security. But the secret apparently is out. More than 40 percent of the poll’s respondents and 44 percent of likely voters agree that “if strong action is not taken, our national security will be threatened by global instability.” (You can find the announcement and summary of the poll results here.)

The poll, conducted for PCAP by Harris Interactive, involved 2,175 respondents. Thirty-one percent of them were neutral on the link between global warming and security. That leaves about 28 percent who apparently think the connection is bogus. Interestingly, that’s about the same number of Americans who think that President Bush is doing a good job.

Some of the poll’s most notable findings were in the demographics. For example, the numbers indicate it is Hispanics and African Americans who most recognize the climate-security link. Sixty-three percent of Hispanics and half of African American respondents agreed that if strong action is not taken on climate change, our national security will be threatened. Large numbers of Hispanics (77 percent) and African Americans (74 percent) want immediate presidential action. Two-thirds of respondents with household incomes below $50,000 agree.

Males 35 to 44 years old were the most likely gender and age to see the connection, with 48 percent agreeing.

The poll was the second in a series of four that PCAP has commissioned from Harris Interactive to track the public’s attitude about the urgency of climate change and Presidential action. The first poll, taken in April, found that more than 60 percent of Americans believe the president must take strong action against climate change soon after Inauguration. The new poll shows little change in that number.

While 30-something males are more convinced than women of the security link, women are more likely to agree that strong presidential action is important. Sixty-seven percent of women said so, compared to 57 percent of men.

The poll found that 35 percent of respondents believe Sen. Obama has the strongest climate policy, while only 17 percent feel that Sen. McCain does — despite the fact that McCain was an early supporter of carbon trading and dedicated a speech to climate change in Portland last May, calling for a mandatory cap on emissions.But Obama calls for an 80 percent cut in emissions by mid-century, while McCain calls for only 60 percent. That difference seems to be reflected in the responses.

But for campaign strategists, the most important result may be this: Nearly half of the poll’s respondents (48 percent) still don’t know which candidate has the strongest position — about the same number as in PCAP’s April survey. That seems to suggest there’s still a sizable block of voters remaining to be courted on the issue. They could be critical in a tight race. Anything you’d like to say to them, gentlemen?

– Bill B.

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2 Responses to Whos strongest on climate? Half the Country is Waiting to Decide

  1. Earl Killian says:

    With the Senate projected to be 4-5 votes short from passing anything of significance, and 11-22 votes short of ratifying a treaty, I’d like to ask the question about the Senate seats first in Alaska and Mississippi, and perhaps in Oregon, Kentucky, and Georgia.

  2. Dennis says:

    Most voters simply do not have the environment and climate change on their radar screen. The closest it gets to becoming an issue for them is how much it costs to fill up their gas tank, and then all we hear are nonsense arguments about ANWR and off-shore drilling. Getting beyond the oil economy simply doesn’t get the attention it deserves.

    Short of another catastrophe like Katrina, this election will not be about the environment. Environmentalists need to work with the candidate of their choice, but be aware that the election will be decided by issues like jobs, Iraq, and health care.