It’s all about Independents — and Independence

Unlike health care reform, the clean air, clean energy jobs bill that cuts oil use and pollution is a bipartisan political winner in every poll.

poll 2010

The amazing table above comes from a new Allstate/National Journal/Heartland Monitor poll of 1200 Americans conducted January 3 to 7 .  Even after a multimillion dollar disinformation campaign funded by big oil and corporate polluters, the public still understands that the climate bill would help the U.S. economy (unlike their view of the bailout bills or even healthcare).

What is particularly stunning about this poll is that, as you can see, this is how the bill was described:

A cap and trade system to address climate change by allowing government to set limits on the total amount of greenhouse gases that can be emitted nationally.

That’s right, people were asked about what is widely considered to be a straight political loser — “cap and trade to address climate change” — with no mention of the many benefits of the bill that typically poll far better — increasing energy independence, generating clean energy jobs, and reducing pollution.

It may well be that stupefyingly bad analysis and decisionmaking in the wake of the MA special election weakens support for the bipartisan clean air, clean water, clean energy jobs bill — a bill that also puts us on the path to energy independence (see EIA: Clean air, clean water, clean energy jobs bill would make America more energy independent, cutting U.S. foreign oil bill $650 billion through 2030, saving $5,600 per household).

After all, bad analysis gave us the grost mismanagement of health care “reform.”   But before rehashing that bad analysis, let’s note that politicians would normally fall over themselves to pursue legislation that simultaneously energizes their base and has strong support among independents.

Poll after poll makes clear this bill is a winning political issue:

  1. Swing state poll finds 60% “would be more likely to vote for their senator if he or she supported the bill” and Independents support the bill 2-to-1 (9/09)
  2. New CNN poll finds “nearly six in 10 independents” support cap-and-trade (10/09)
  3. Voters in Ohio, Michigan and Missouri overwhelmingly support action on clean energy and global warming (11/09)
  4. Overwhelming US Public Support for Global Warming Action (12/09)
  5. Public Opinion Stunner: WashPost-ABC Poll Finds Strong Support for Global Warming Reductions Despite Relentless Big Oil and Anti-Science Attacks (12/09)

Let’s reexamine each of these polls in more detail:

The first poll above interviewed likely voters in 16 states that have a large fraction of the swing Senators “” AK, AR, IN, ME, MI, MO, MT, NC, NV, ND, NH, OH, PA, SD, VA, WV.  On job creation, it found 50% say the number of jobs will increase under a climate and clean energy jobs bill, 26% say it will decrease and 26% say it won’t change.

CNN wrote of the second poll:

“The support of independents will be crucial to any cap and trade proposal,” Holland says. “Independents may not be red or blue, but they appear to be green. Earlier polls indicate that Independents believe in global warming and believe that the government can take steps to curtail the problem.”

In the third poll (actually a set of polls), likely 2010 voters were asked:  “Congress is considering an energy plan that has two key parts. One part would require factories and power companies to reduce their emissions of the carbon pollution that causes global warming by 17% (20% in MO) by the year 2020 and by 80% by the year 2050. The other part would require power companies to generate 15% of their power from clean energy sources like wind and solar by the year 2025. Would you favor/oppose this entire plan?”  The results:

  • 75% of voters in Michigan favor.
  • 68% of voters in Ohio favor.
  • 67% of voters in Missouri favor.

In the fourth poll above, AP-Stanford focusing primarily on global warming again found the public gets that the climate bill would create jobs and help the economy (and/or at least not lose jobs or hurt it):

Do You Think That The U.S. Doing Things To Reduce Global Warming In The Future Would Cause There To Be More/Fewer Jobs For People Around The Country?

More jobs                       40%

Fewer jobs                      23

Would not affect jobs     33

Do You Think That The U.S. Doing Things To Reduce Global Warming In The Future Would Hurt/Help The U.S. Economy?

Help U.S. economy             46%

Hurt U.S. economy              27

Would not affect economy  24

In the fifth poll, WashPost-ABC found that three of five Americans would support reductions in greenhouse gas pollution even it “raised your monthly expenses by 10 dollars a month.”  And 55 percent would still support reductions if it “raised your monthly energy expenses by 25 dollars a month.”

These are amazing results during the worst recession in 70 years:


Three federal government estimates predict that households would have an overall “purchasing power loss” of $7 – $13 per month, which includes all goods and services, not just energy costs. And none of these estimates include the economic benefits of action, or the huge costs of inaction. In other words, the poll shows that the projected costs of domestic global warming pollution reductions are well with in the range of the amount that two-thirds of the public are willing to pay.

Household Cost Estimates of American Clean Energy and Security Act, H.R. 2454

Study Average Household Purchasing Power Impact per month
Congressional Budget Office $13
Energy Information Administration $12
Environmental Protection Agency $7

And a recent Pew Research poll also found strong support for climate action:

graph of public supporting setting emissions limits

And yet conventional (non)wisdom is that somehow it would be unpopular to take strong action to reduce pollution’ preserve clean air, clean water, and a livable climate, creating clean energy jobs, and reduce our $1 billion a day outflow of money to buy on oil from other countries, many of which are unfriendly or unstable.

Here is Reuters columnist, John Kemp, in his column today, “Massachusetts election kills cap-and-trade“:

The administration can stick to its existing agenda and hope economic recovery comes in time to save the Democratic Party from heavy defeat at the mid-term elections in November. But with the loss of the crucial sixtieth vote in the Senate, much of that agenda now appears destined to sink into the upper chamber’s legislation swamp.

Or it can trim the agenda to de-emphasise the least popular measures, such as the climate legislation, and re-focus on the economy and popular themes, such as stiffening financial regulation. In practice this may now be the only course open to the president.


While I expect many moderate Senators to draw the wrong conclusion about Massachusetts election, at least one Massachussetts Senator still gets it.  As E&E News (subs. req’d) reported this morning:

“The political atmosphere doesn’t reduce the urgency of dealing with climate and energy, and the surest way to increase the anger at Washington is to duck the issues that matter in peoples’ lives,” said Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) in an e-mailed statement to E&E.

“There’s overwhelming public support and this can be a bipartisan issue,” Kerry added. “It doesn’t have to be polarized. Just listen to a conservative like Sen. [Lindsey] Graham or business leaders from across the ideological spectrum. This is the single best opportunity we have for energizing the economy, creating jobs and getting cleaner air, and if you sell those arguments you’ve got a winning issue.”

Hear!  Hear!

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3 Responses to It’s all about Independents — and Independence

  1. Jeff Huggins says:

    A Problem

    Joe, I think there’s a problem. The problem is that many people (many leaders, many pundits, etc.) assume that the broad public will behave “rationally” in ways that THEY (the people doing the interpreting) think are “rational”.

    Leaders, political pundits, and etc. should get up to speed with the behavioral sciences!

    For example, let’s say Voter L is genuinely concerned with climate change and wants the political leadership (i.e., Washington) to address it. But, let’s also say that Voter L is concerned about health-care, is frustrated that Washington is still too linked to big business, and wants MORE change, not less.

    Well, Voter L, out of frustration and in his own rational way, may very well want to send a signal. Even if Candidate Z is in favor of addressing climate change, and if Candidate Y isn’t, it’s nevertheless quite possible that Voter L might still vote for Candidate Y IF Candidate Z is perceived to be too much of an insider AND IF the insiders aren’t being effective. Or, Voter L might just decide to stay home.

    Put another way, the leaders need to “get it” — AND SOON — or they’d better not count on their base to vote for them, EVEN IF their base agrees with them on some of the key issues. In other words, EFFECTIVENESS is part of the bargain and expectation that many voters have. And, voters sometimes express frustration — and “rationally” so — by voting in ways that might seem, in some ways, to be inconsistent with their views on specific issues.

    If a political party wants my vote, it had better be effective. And, my gut feel tells me that I’m not the only one who feels that way.

    I still have hope for the administration — but it had better get its act together! I don’t want less change: I want more, and better, change. I voted for improvements in the U.S. — health care, climate change, economy, human rights, etc. — and what I mostly see are slow going, back-peddling, compromise (with people who don’t want to compromise anyhow), and so forth.


  2. Dan B says:

    Democrats will be perceived as wimps who need to grow some cojones until Realists like Rahm Emmanuel are fired.

    With the threats to our children, the world’s climate, our country, and capitalism we need COURAGE, not friggin analysis.

    We’ve analyzed to death. Truly to DEATH!

    No study will tell you the obvious – courage trumps calculation. COMMUNISM IN CHINA IS TRUMPING FRIGGIN FREE-MARKET / UNREGULATED CAPITALISM.

    WAKE UP. Unregulated Capitalism wants to drown the people who want to save it. Wall Street Journal – are you fundamental beliefs wrong? Tell us. We’re waiting.

    The boat’s sinking…. Grab my hand. Or go under.

    Tell CAP the time passed. Abandon ship. Hope for the best. The courageous will emerge. Most corporations will perish. Do the corporate giants want prophesy that could save them or pablum?

    Do we want corporatism (the belief that big corporations are the generators of jobs, justice, and opportunity) or community, messy or not?

  3. Mark says:

    I do not subscribe to the opinion that this election is some sort of watershed political event. I believe the results of this election fall squarely on Martha Coakley’s shoulders. She gave this one to Scott Brown by doing just about everything wrong. It was a textbook case of what not to do in a political campaign. One comment in the Globe yesterday suggested that she made blunder after blunder. I’d have to agree.

    She took the voters in this state for granted. She didn’t work hard for our votes. There were no campaign events in my town or the surrounding towns where you could get a chance to meet her.

    She focused on the democratic base and did not reach out to the independents in the state. Scott Brown said the word independent about three times in every ad he ran. By the way, independents make up over half of the electorate in Massachusetts these days.

    She tried not to take a position on anything, because she was so far ahead that she thought she would only lose votes by defining positions. When asked why she wasn’t out meeting people and asking for their vote – one time answered that she was working on position papers and another time said that it was more important for her to be meeting with union leaders than standing outside in the cold. When asked why she wanted to be a senator she said something in her answer about the Senate seat being a hardship for her and her family as she would need to commute to Washington if elected.

    A friend of mine met her at a campaign event, went up and asked her a question about a topic my friend was passionate about, (but held the opposite of Coakley’s position). Instead of thanking my friend for her thoughts, Coakley just turned around and walked away without making any comment at all.

    When she started slipping in the polls, she started running attack ads, but never once as far as I can remember gave us one good positive reason why we should elect her.

    She made some technically correct comments about Afghanistan that made her look weak on national security. You should have seen the letters to the editor after that one.

    I voted for her, but only because Scott Brown has taken the position that climate change isn’t an important issue, is probably not caused by humans and that he is going to vote against any of the energy and environmental issues that Obama has been pushing. (By the way, the environment got almost no press in this election cycle.)

    I knew going into this that I was going to be very disappointed no matter who was elected. There wasn’t one person on my street that had Coakley sign on their lawn. There wasn’t one person who was willing to stand outside the polling place holding a sign for her….

    Martha didn’t ask for the support of the other democratic primary candidates after she defeated them. There have been no statements or endorsements from any of the other democratic candidates saying that we need to come together and support Martha.