GOP, Dem polls show climate and clean energy jobs legislation has strong bipartisan support

Even Frank Luntz sees it as a winning message

Every major poll shows popular support for a bipartisan clean air, clean energy jobs bills that preserves a livable climate and reduces oil consumption (see “It’s all about Independents “” and Independence“).  Guest blogger and CAP Senior Fellow, Daniel J. Weiss, discusses yet another major new survey — by Obama’s campaign pollster — with a similar finding.  Weiss also examines a new poll by GOP master messager Frank Luntz — the former bane of climate realists (see Bush climate speech follows Luntz playbook: “Technology, technology, blah, blah, blah”).  I’ll blog more about Luntz’s conclusions on messaging next week.

In the wake of Massachusetts’ surprising election of Republican Scott Brown to the U.S. Senate, several moderate Senate Democrats have expressed new found reservations about whether the Senate should pass a global warming pollution reduction bill. For instance, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), with little knowledge of public concerns, said that “It’s clear from the hiatus a large cap-and-trade bill isn’t going to go ahead at this time.”

These fears are completely out of step with public opinion.  On January 21, a Republican and Democratic pollster released separate polls that found that there is strong bipartisan support to reduce the pollution responsible for global warming.

Republican pollster Frank Luntz was a primary architect of the 1994 “Contract with America” that helped the GOP win the House for the first time since 1953.   Luntz surveyed 1007 registered voters and conducted “Instant Response” qualitative dial sessions.

Despite endless attacks on climate science by Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and other Republican leaders, Luntz found that 43% of Republicans “definitely” or “probably” “believe CLIMATE CHANGE is caused at least in part by humans.”

Luntz also determined that there is strong bipartisan support for action on global warming:

“A clear majority of Americans believe climate change is happening.  This is true of McCain voters and Obama voters alike.  And even those that don’t still believe it is essential for America to pursue policies that promote energy independence and a cleaner, healthier environment.

“Americans want clean, safe, healthy, secure energy.  That’s why Republicans and Democrats alike strongly support action to address climate change.  Sure, Republicans are more concerned about the national security component and Democrats the health component, but support for action right now spans all partisan and ideological lines.”

President Obama’s 2008 pollster Joel Benenson found substantially similar results in interviews with 800 likely voters in 16 battleground states [1], conducted from January 6-10 on behalf of Clean Energy Works.

“As 2010 begins, public support for an energy and climate bill remains strong. Overall, 58% of likely 2010 voters support the bill and just 37% oppose it when told the following:

“This past summer, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an energy bill that limits pollution and greenhouse gas emissions through what’s been called a Cap and Trade plan and also invests in clean, renewable energy sources in America. Soon, the Senate will debate it.”

“Support/Oppose for Energy Bill that Contains Cap and Trade”

Total % Dem % Rep% Independent %
Support 58 82 37 52
Oppose 37 15 48 41

Benenson found that 56% of voters would be more likely to re-elect their Senators that vote for the bill, with only 35% less likely to vote for re-election.  On the other hand, half of voters would be less likely to vote to re-elect their Senator if s/he voted against the bill, while only 39% would be more likely to vote for re-election.  In other words, support for limits on global warming pollution would be net political plus in these battleground states.

These polls were released on the same day that scientists determined that “the decade ending in 2009 was the warmest on record, new surface temperature figures released Thursday by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration show.”

Ignoring this latest evidence that global warming is already here, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) yesterday introduced her “Dirty Air Act” resolution to blow an Alaska-sized hole in the clean air act, letting big oil and coal polluters off the hook by dropping requirements for power plants to use modern technology to reduce pollution and produce cleaner energy.  The Murkowski resolution – originally written by big energy lobbyists — would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from enforcing the Clean Air Act against large carbon polluters.

The Benenson poll found that the Murkowski Dirty Air Act amendment is overwhelmingly opposed by voters in these battleground states.

“59% of voters agree and just 39% disagree that ‘if Congress doesn’t pass this energy bill, the Environmental Protection Agency should take action to regulate carbon polluters.’

“Among Independents, support for EPA action is even stronger: 61% agree and only 37% disagree.”

Frank Luntz and Joel Benenson are public opinion king makers.  One helped make Newt Gingrich Speaker of the House, while the other was essential to the election of Barack Obama.  Their separate polls confirm other recent polls: Democrats, Independents, and yes, even many Republicans support clean energy and global warming legislation that provides clean, safe, healthy, secure energy.  Rather than hide behind the results of the Massachusetts Senate special election, Senators should respond to overwhelming public support for passage of global warming legislation.

[1] Voters were polled in the following states: Alaska, Arkansas, Indiana, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Virginia, West Virginia

JR:  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)

30 Responses to GOP, Dem polls show climate and clean energy jobs legislation has strong bipartisan support

  1. Jade in San Francisco says:

    Hello Joe. I haven’t commented here in a long time but I’ve been keeping up with your blog postings. I really enjoyed the section in your book Hell and High Water where you go in depth on the Luntz/Bush/Gingrich technology denialism talking points. Very fascinating how a politician can sound as if they’re concerned about climate change without actually requiring any government action mitigate it. Apparently Bill Gates has jumped on the technology/innovation runaway train. You need to respond to his recent article in the Huffingtonpost where he is unapologetic in his attack on energy efficiency. Sounds like he’s going after you directly.

    [JR: Yes, it’s nuts. It’s on my list.]

  2. MarkB says:

    I’m wondering how in the world some Democratic leaders think accomplishing little is going to save their Congressional seats. Healthcare and clean energy are their two top priorities. They need to be much more concerned about their base not showing up at the polls at this point than cowering through the year not pushing anything of significance.

  3. Dan B says:

    Daniel and Joe;

    Six months ago I moved to a lower middle class neighborhood with almost no white folks. I followed the advice Frank Luntz, Chip Heath, and the Sightline Institute’s Flashcard #2 – A. Lead with Solutions, B. discuss opportunities, and C. tie to moral reasons.. and skeptics of global warming will get engaged.

    My neighbors who are mostly under-employed construction workers are excited about seeing what I’m doing to make the house more efficient. They’re talking about global warming being more dangerous than the media lets us know. Six months ago they didn’t talk about global warming to each other, their friends, or their families. Now that they’re helping my house with renewable energy and air-sealing projects (It sure is handy to have construction workers for neighbors!) global warming is not a huge-scary-problem-that-is-too-frightening-if-it’s-real. When you’re already living on the edge it’s too painful to focus on one more problem.

    When you’re focused on the solution you engage people, because you’re empowering them.

    Senator Feinstein, and others, get a clue. It’s the 21st Century. Time for energy and an economy for this century.

  4. SecularAnimist says:

    Jade wrote: “Apparently Bill Gates has jumped on the technology/innovation runaway train.”

    Apparently, Bill Gates has invested in nuclear power, so he is using his “bully pulpit” to promote it with the usual pro-nuclear bromides. Nothing surprising there.

  5. Mac says:

    I appreciate that Mr. Luntz apparently sees some reasonable logic to supporting research and job development framed around global warming but the reality of this problem is that it has nothing to do with public opinion.

    Public opinion matters to the blog-o-sphere and the talking heads on Sunday TV.

    This is a problem reflected by facts and data. The facts, the data, take no political side, honor no party and no State. Climactic change will affect Africa as easily as it will affect Kansas. Sea level rise will affect Hong Kong as easily as it affects the Port of Seattle.

    In a way this is an exciting time as in the duration of recorded human history we’ve never seen such changes as this which we have only just glimpsed in the geologic record.

    Those individuals who do not ‘believe’ in global warming will start to pay attention when the beaches start to erode and their crops dry out.

  6. J.A. Turner says:

    What’s the basis for concluding that Senator Feinstein’s position isn’t based on an actute awareness of both the mood in the Senate and her constituent’s wishes? She knows full well that here in the SF Bay Area that her consitutents overwhelmingly want action on climate. But what we want doesn’t automatically equate to cooperation from the rest of the Senate.

  7. Jade in San Francisco says:

    SecularAnimist wrote: “Nothing surprising here”. Maybe not, but I wouldn’t expect him to be so dismissive about energy efficiency and renewable energy.

    Bill Gates said: “To achieve the kinds of innovations that will be required I think a distributed system of RESEARCH and DEVELOPMENT with economic rewards for innovators and strong government encouragement is the key. There just isn’t enough work going on today to get us to where we need to go.” What a load of crap! What the hell does he think is taking place right now. R & D is an ongoing process. We can begin to reduce CO2 emission immediately with existing technology!If I didn’t know any better, I would think that this statement had been plagiarised directly out a memo written by Frank Lutz.

  8. WAG says:

    Everyone needs to call their Congressmen and tell them to vote for the damn health care bill, and then for climate and clean energy.

    Joe, a lot of other bloggers are urging readers to start making calls to congressmen to put pressure on them, and let them know that doing nothing will kill their election prospects. Here’s a useful website from OFA:

  9. Jeff Huggins says:

    Happy (449th) Birthday, Francis!

    Today — 22 January — is Francis Bacon’s birthday.

    He was, of course, a great philosopher and the leading voice in the invention of the scientific method. He lived during a time when “natural philosophy” basically encompassed both of what we now think of as “science” AND “philosophy”. He was a great thinker, died as a result of his commitment to experimentation (even outside, on very cold days), and deserves some additional sympathy because of another circumstance he shared (and shares) with many philosophers and scientists: He died broke!

    He would be rolling in his grave, I’ll bet, if he knew how much so many people are still ignoring what we can learn from science — e.g., re climate change.

    In honor of his birthday — (which I share with him as a birthday, I’ll mention just for fun, or at least for my own fun!) — l’ll list some science-related quotes in a forthcoming post, including a great one from Bacon himself that has a great degree of relevance to climate change.

    Happy Birthday Francis!

  10. Jeff Huggins says:

    Francis Bacon’s Birthday, Part II

    Following from my earlier comment (Comment 9), here are some science-related quotes in honor of Francis Bacon’s birthday (including some that relate to the vital intersections between science and philosophy):

    Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed.
    – Francis Bacon

    Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.
    – Albert Einstein

    Necessity is the mother and teacher of Nature. Necessity is Nature’s theme and its inventor, and it is the eternal restraint and rule.
    – Leonardo da Vinci

    A social instinct is implanted in all men by nature …
    – Aristotle

    One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.
    – William Shakespeare, “Troilus and Cressida”

    In ethics as in optics, we need stereoscopy to see the world in all its dimensions.
    – Kwame Anthony Appiah, “Experiments in Ethics”

    [E]thical philosophers intuit the deontological canons of morality by consulting the emotive centers of their own hypothalamic-limbic systems.
    – E. O. Wilson

    [T]he ‘is’/‘ought’ gap, and the naturalistic fallacy are perhaps better seen as warnings than as outright barriers, reminding us of ways in which the project can fail, and indeed often has failed. But they should not warn us off the project altogether, since the need to ask how morality fits with our best empirical understanding of ourselves and our place in nature and history arises from within normative moral thought itself.
    – Peter Railton

    When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.
    – John Muir

    By means of beauty all beautiful things become beautiful.
    – Socrates

  11. joe1347 says:

    I don’t know, given Luntz’s known strong interest in only getting Republicans elected, should we believe him or is this simply a trap for the Democrats? Given the results of the Mass. election this week, it’s questionable whether the Democrats should be focusing on anything other than the economy, jobs, and getting our money back that the greedy bankers stole. Sorry, but unless the Democrats can do it quick and quietly – or make it a pure jobs bill. Climate change legislation seems like it needs to go to the bottom of the list for now.

  12. Lou Grinzo says:

    Jade: Bill Gates knows as much about formulating a coherent response to climate change as Microsoft knows about writing secure software.

    His quarter-baked ideas only got attention because he’s a Famous Rich Guy.

    (I say this having used and more than occasionally written about MS software since the days of MS-DOS 1.00.)

  13. Chris Winter says:

    Joel347 wrote: “I don’t know, given Luntz’s known strong interest in only getting Republicans elected, should we believe him or is this simply a trap for the Democrats?”

    I think it’s reasonable to be suspicious of motives, given Luntz’s history and the recent actions of congressional members of the G-NO-P.

    On the other hand, I’m not convinced the Democrats are in a down phase of their cycle yet. The members of Congress that I’ve heard speak mostly declare that bold action is needed, from their own body and from the President. Liberal/progressive pundits express this even more strongly. And polls continue to show public support for passage of health care, clean energy, and banking regulation bills.

    Republicans have to be aware of these trends — Luntz, especially, sharp as he is. So he may just be on the level.

    “Trust, but verify.”

  14. MarkB says:

    An MA exit poll found that by a 51-44 margin, Scott Brown voters support their MA universal healthcare plan, yet overwhelmingly are against the national plan (Coakley voters overwhelmingly support both). Their plan isn’t stunningly different from the national one. While some of this can be attributed to the “we like our universal healthcare system…don’t mess with it”, there’s much more going on. People are often easily lead to fear laws and legislation they aren’t familiar with. MA residents are sufficiently familiar with their own universal healthcare system at this point and consequently like it. They aren’t familiar with the national plan and have allowed negative talking points and media spin to fill the void.

    Expect a stepped up onslaught of disinformation on clean energy legislation if the Senate moves to consider the Graham/Kerry/Lieberman proposal this year. The question is: how do we let voters get honestly familiar with the legislation, when, unlike the MA universal healthcare law, is not already firmly in place for voters to judge? How do you truly convince someone the pasta dish is good unless they’ve tried it already to confirm? It’s much easier for an opposing restaurant owner to convince them the pasta is runny, tasteless, too salty, much different from the pasta they are used to, etc., if they haven’t tried it for themselves to note how full of it the other restaurant owner is.

  15. Jonah says:

    From the EDF press release:
    Pitted against economic and environmental arguments, national security was consistently the highest priority.

    McCain voters in Luntz’s qualitative research strongly believe “the costs of our addiction to oil are too high in terms of lives, money, foreign policy and standing in the world.”

    This is a bit troubling. Those of this opinion will be perfectly happy to move to a future where electric SUVs are powered by coal electric plants. That’s a high-CO2 option, to be sure. I don’t see a lot of data supporting a low-carbon future. Folks are worried about their security, not AGW.

    [JR: It’s a top priority (for those voters) — not the only one.]

  16. Jonah says:

    Re: [JR: It’s a top priority (for those voters) — not the only one.]

    Yes, and the data show that. However, if I were a big coal strategist, and I saw cap & trade as a serious threat, I would start working on a wedge strategy, trumping up huge per-family costs of cap & trade, and saying that all we need to keep us safe is to switch to electric cars, charged off of a coal-based grid. No cap & trade required! I think we should be prepared for such a strategy. What’s a good reply? Do we need to push the CO2 = pollution angle? The most popular “best business reason” sentence from the poll points us in that direction… it mentions “pollution”, but not CO2! Hmm…

  17. MarkB says:

    Jonah (#15),

    Part of the problem in that poll question is they separate environmental concerns into many answers: “halting pollution of air and water” and “saving our planet from destruction”, “ending global warming”, “reducing GHGs”, “reducing carbon emissions”, “preventing climate chaos”, and “ending climate change”, while the national security issue is one single answer. Thus, the others get diluted into smaller percentages.

  18. SecularAnimist says:

    Luntz is clever. Here’s how it works:

    1. Stop talking about the mounting scientific evidence of grave and rapidly accelerating danger from anthropogenic global warming and climate change (thereby conveniently leaving the discussion of such matters to the Ditto-Head deniers who will most certainly NOT stop talking about the “hoax” of global warming).

    2. Stop talking about the urgent necessity of phasing out ALL fossil fuel use as rapidly as possible because of the grave danger of global warming (thereby allowing the fossil fuel corporations to constantly refer vaguely to “energy production”, equating “energy” with fossil fuels).

    3. Instead, talk about “energy security” and “energy independence” (thereby allowing the fossil fuel corporations to proclaim that more coal mining and more oil drilling in the USA are the “solution”).

    4. Also instead of talking about global warming, talk about “jobs” (thereby allowing the fossil fuel corporations to proclaim that any effort to put a price on carbon pollution “destroys jobs”).

    Luntz basically wants liberals, Democrats and environmentalists to use language that supports the deliberate lies of the fossil fuel industry:

    “The problem isn’t global warming, the problem is national security, energy independence and jobs — all of which are best addressed by increased coal mining and domestic oil drilling, and all of which would be made much worse by any effort to put a price on carbon emissions.”

    That’s the message that Luntz is selling as a “bipartisan” approach.

  19. Jonah says:

    MarkB #17:

    Actually, the question I was referring to, Which gives you the most confidence that cap and trade might actually work to reduce emissions?, doesn’t deal with environmental reasons at all… it’s all about the business reasons why cap & trade may work.

  20. Jonah says:

    MarkB #17:

    Sorry, I misread your comment, and now see what you were saying. There will have been some people who were artificially split by the buckets which they provided… but I will note that even if you combine those who gave “Ending global warming”, “Reducing greenhouse gases”, “Reducing carbon emissions”, “Preventing climate chaos” AND “Ending climate change” together, their numbers still are less than the single “Ending dependence on foreign fuels” category. I still think there’s a big lesson there.

  21. MarkB says:

    Jonah (#20),

    …but if you include “saving our planet from destruction”, which global warming is generally considered a big part of, it’s well above the foreign fuel dependency answer. The question asks for two answers, and combines them. Someone might decide “saving our planet from destruction” already encompasses one of the other global warming-related answers, so they choose the foreign fuels answer or one of the economy answers as to not be redundant.

    Then there are the answers “creating new energy jobs” and “creating a new energy economy”, which are nearly the same. They add up to the same as the foreign fuels answer, and only a bit less than among Republicans.

    The methodology also doesn’t allow us to determine what an individual’s first choice was.

    I guess there are a lot of ways to read the poll.

  22. MarkB says:

    To follow up on that, if the poll had 2 additional answers:

    – improve national security
    – free our country from addiction to middle east oil

    in addition to:

    – less dependency on foreign fuels

    the answer to the existing one would be rather diluted.

    While I don’t necessarily agree with everything SecularAnimist said in #18, I think the answers to this particular question are clearly structured in such a way as to support the conclusion “Ending Our Dependence on Foreign Oil is the Top Environmental Goal – For Everyone”. Change a few answers (split the foreign fuels answer or combine results of others) and one can come up with a totally different conclusion.

  23. Jim S says:

    We need to respect the planet and use the resources wisely – Its a message that should be important to both political parties. Using faulty scientific information in an effort to transfer money between nations is the work of climate hucksters and not supported by the public at large.

  24. evnow says:

    Regarding nuclear power … I don’t see how you could ever reduce emissions without replacing coal plants with nuclear to get enough baseload power. You can’t have some 70% of the power that is intermittent (wind / solar).

    What we should insist on is
    – Nuclear should replace coal
    – Nuclear should reprocess existing nuclear “waste” or use Thorium

  25. evnow,
    Actually the liquid fluoride thorium reactor can BOTH consume existing nuclear waste and also use thorium.

  26. espiritwater says:

    A little off the subject, but just read Scott Brown’s remarks, that he now doubts the reality of Global Warming. My mother is 90- years- old, with only a grade school education and even she realizes Global Warming is happening! How can a man with his education and background, who has the awesome responsibility of help shape policies to protect the American people say he doubts Global Warming? That’s ridiculous! If he’s so clueless, how the heck can he claim to be qualified for such an important position? Makes ZERO sense! The LEAST he could do is to say why he now doubts it– but then that would be implying he knows more than the world’s most reputable scientists from hundreds of countries. What a PHONEY!!!

  27. mike roddy says:


    Three insurmountable problems with nuclear:

    1. Too expensive (see ethree and Lazard studies). Solar thermal is cheaper right now.
    2. Not enough uranium for change on that scale. Once we got to the last 30% of it, prices would soar even more (see #1).
    3. It’s only feasible if the government takes care of meltdown insurance. This creates the risk of a Federal financial collapse in the event of a Chernobyl.

    Solar works. That’s one reason so many are fighting it.

  28. espiritwater says:

    #27 (above): You forgot to mention WATER. Water is required for nuclear power plants and water will be very, very scarce in the near future.

  29. CTF says:

    While clearly the American electorate is ready for climate change legislation, there isn’t the political will in Washington for a complicated cap and trade system. We need to adopt fresh perspectives, forge new partnerships, and create an emissions policy that will be seen as balanced and workable. We need a “#GreenPlanB”. Read more here:

  30. espiritwater says:

    Yeah, let’s get a new plan; wait awhile, wait awhile and then get a new plan.

    In the meantime, scientists have just discovered that the amount of GHG we’re emitting today is enough to raise global temperatures 5-10 degrees F. higher than today’s global temperature, and raise sea levels to catastrophic levels— if our current rate of almost 400ppm is sustained!

    Right. Let’s wait some and plan for later…