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ABC-WP Poll: Clear majority of Americans approve of Obama’s handling of global warming and support greenhouse gas regulation even if raises their energy bills — even if China and India do less

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"ABC-WP Poll: Clear majority of Americans approve of Obama’s handling of global warming and support greenhouse gas regulation even if raises their energy bills — even if China and India do less"

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This post is by Daniel J. Weiss, Director of Climate Strategy at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

On the eve of the vote on the American Clean Energy and Security Act, expected Friday (or early Saturday), the Washington Post-ABC News just released a poll that found strong support among Americans for action to reduce global warming pollution. Despite conservative loud and misleading opposition to the bill, a global warming reduction plan has widespread public support.

The poll respondents also gave President Obama high marks for his efforts to address this problem. President Obama’s net ratings on this issue — net 28% approve — is his second strongest issue after international affairs. He has a higher approval rating on global warming than on health care or the economy, among other issues.

Respondents were asked whether “government should or should not regulate the release of greenhouse gases from sources like power plants, cars and factories in an effort to reduce global warming?” By more than 3-1, Americans felt that the Federal government should “regulate” the release of greenhouse gas pollution. And the respondents who felt strongly about it favored action by 4-1.

These findings are particularly significant given that the wording of the question was biased against action since it asked about the regulation of greenhouse gases. Regulate and its derivatives are hot buttons for many Americans. And the bill American Clean Energy and Security Act is not a strict regulatory bill because it includes a “cap and trade” mechanism that relies on the market place to set prices on emissions reductions, and allows companies to offset their emissions by paying farmers and others to store carbon pollution instead.

There is lower support for a “cap and trade” system, with only a 10 percent net support. This lower support reflects the general lack of knowledge about how a cap and trade system works. People support the end – lower pollution – but do not focus on the means – a cap and trade system. It would be like asking people if they supported the “S-CHIP” program rather than whether they supported health care for children.

Another reason for relatively low support is that other opinion research found that respondents believe that companies should not be able to buy the “right to pollute.” And in the wake of the 2008 collapse of the financial markets, many people don’t believe that the government would do an adequate job policing the trades. Nonetheless, there is net positive support for this mechanism.

The poll asked respondents if they would be willing to pay an extra $10 a month in higher electricity bills to reduce greenhouse gas pollution. There were willing to do so by a net of 14 percent. This could be purely hypothetical.  EPA’s analysis of the American Clean Energy and Security Act estimates the bill’s energy efficiency provisions would lower utility bills by 7% or an average of $7 per month.

Some conservatives argue that the United States should not act to reduce its global warming pollution until other countries – such as China and India — do so as well. An overwhelming number of respondents – 59 percent – reject this argument. These people understand that investments in clean energy would create jobs, cut oil use, reduce pollution, and enhance our economic competitiveness.

These results show that the American people want to the United States to act to reduce global warming pollution and are willing to pay for it. And they want us to lead regardless of what other countries do. When they vote on the American Clean Energy and Security Act on Friday, members of the House of Representatives would do well to reject big oil and big coal’s arguments, and instead heed public opinion.

Washington Post-ABC News Poll

This Washington Post-ABC News poll was conducted by telephone June 18-21, 2009, among a random national sample of 1,001 adults including users of both conventional and cellular phones. The results from the full survey have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three points. Sampling, data collection and tabulation by TNS of Horsham, Pa.

*= less than 0.5 percent

2. Do you approve or disapprove of the way Obama is handling [ITEM]? (IF ITEM A,B,C) Do you approve/disapprove strongly or somewhat?

Approve Disapprove No opinion
a. The economy 56 41 3
b. Health care 53 39 9
c. The federal budget deficit 48 48 5
d. International affairs 61 32 7
e. Global warming 54 28 17
f. The threat of terrorism 57 36 7
g. The situation with Iran 52 36 12
h. The situation involving the
big U.S. automakers
45 50 5

33. On another subject, do you think the federal government should or should not regulate the release of greenhouse gases from sources like power plants, cars and factories in an effort to reduce global warming? Do you feel that way strongly or somewhat?

Total Should Strongly Should Somewhat Should Total Should not Somewhat should not Strongly should not No Opinion
6/21/09 75 53 22 22 9 13 3
4/24/09 75 54 21 21 9 12 4

33a. (IF SHOULD REGULATE) What if it raised the price of things you buy – in that case do you think the federal government should or should not regulate the release of greenhouse gases?

Should Should not No opinion
6/21/09 80 18 2

34. There’s a proposed system called “cap and trade.” The government would issue permits limiting the amount of greenhouse gases companies can put out. Companies that did not use all their permits could sell them to other companies. The idea is that many companies would find ways to put out less greenhouse gases, because that would be cheaper than buying permits. Would you support or oppose this system?

Support Oppose No opinion
6/21/09 52 42 6
7/28/08 59 34 7

35. (HALF SAMPLE) What if a cap and trade program significantly lowered greenhouse gases but raised your monthly electrical bill by 10 dollars a month – in that case would you support or oppose it?

Support Oppose No opinion
6/21/09 56 42 2
7/28/08 57 41 2

36. (HALF SAMPLE) What if a cap and trade program significantly lowered greenhouse gases but raised your monthly electrical bill by 25 dollars a month – in that case would you support or oppose it?

Support Oppose No opinion
6/21/09 44 54 1
7/28/08 47 51 2

37. Do you think the United States should take action on global warming only if other major industrial countries such as China and India agree to do equally effective things, that the United States should take action even if these other countries do less, or that the United States should not take action on this at all?

Take action only if other countries do Take action even if other countries do less Should not take action at all no opinion
6/21/09 20 59 18 3
7/28/08 18 68 13 2


‹ Obama: “The energy bill before the House will finally create a set of incentives that will spark a clean energy transformation in our economy…. Make no mistake: This is a jobs bill…. I know this will be a close vote, in part because of the misinformation out there….”

The clean energy revolution will not be televised — except on C-SPAN now! — as big media beat it and even Farrah’s death gets bigger play ›

14 Responses to ABC-WP Poll: Clear majority of Americans approve of Obama’s handling of global warming and support greenhouse gas regulation even if raises their energy bills — even if China and India do less

  1. MarkB says:

    Typo on question 2a

    [Thanks Mark. It is fixed.]

  2. ecostew says:

    Most unfortunate UK has more news on the topic than the US media.

  3. paulm says:

    China will be there. Its in their nature.

  4. Chris Winter says:

    “Some conservatives argue that the United States should not act to reduce its global warming pollution until other countries — such as China and India — do so as well. An overwhelming number of respondents — 59 percent — reject this argument. These people understand that investments in clean energy would create jobs, cut oil use, reduce pollution, and enhance our economic competitiveness.”

    It’s good news that this is holding up, even though it’s down from 68% last year. Seems the Republican argument (featured in that hearing I mentioned) is not making much headway.

  5. John Davidson says:

    It is hardly surprising that the support for cap and trade was much lower than the support for the government to regulate the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Despite the propaganda, using a cap and trade system to “put a price on carbon” is not the only way to drive down emissions. Think for a moment:
    1. Why would anyone want to drive down the average fuel consumption/mile of new cars by putting up the price of fuel when this can be done more effectively by leaving the price of fuel unchanged and using regulations?
    2. Why would anyone want to suddenly jump the price of dirty electricity high enough to to justify investment in clean elecricity instead of leaving the price of dirty electricity unchanged and using sales and price guarantees to drive investment in clean electricty? (Average price ramps up slowly instead of requiring the sudden, potentially destabilizinng jump.)
    3. Why would anyone want to push up the price of a high emissions product when the logical response from the future is to pass the price increase on and do nothing about the emissions.

    In the short term at least, it will be a lot more sense to examine the issues associated with significant emissions, check out the alternatives (including those that don’t involve putting a price on carbon) then set up a separate scheme to deal with the specific issue. Can anyone think of an example where they they are convinced that trade and cap will really be the best way to deal with the issues?
    For more details see Trade and Cap Alternatives

  6. Pat Richards says:

    I know about statistical analysis, but I’m still not willing to buy that a random sampling of only 1,001 people is large enough to get a solid reading — but the pollsters like us to believe it is because that way they have to spend a lot less time and money taking the poll. This explains why the polls are so often off the mark by more than their stated margin of error when actual votes are taken and large numbers of people are registering their opinion. Still, the numbers look good — with numbers like this, one would think passage would be a slam dunk. But we know it’s not going to be. A sad commentary on how our governmental process is (not) working.

  7. Yuebing says:

    UPDATE FROM ACEEE

    “The federal energy efficiency provisions included in H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act (a.k.a. Waxman-Markey), could save approximately $1,050 per household by 2020 and $4,400 per household by 2030, according to an updated analysis by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). ”

    http://www.reuters.com/article/gwmCarbonEmissions/idUS363785493920090624

  8. James Thompson says:

    As no one country (even the US) can make a significant dent in global CO2 emissions by itself, surely the primary aim of climate legislation is to impress other countries in the hope that they follow suit?

    ACES doesn’t come close. This is Monbiot ripping into it in the Guardian:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/georgemonbiot/2009/jun/26/us-obama-climate-monbiot

    He does want to see it go through though, however bad it is:

    “Even so, I would like to see the bill passed, as it at least provides a framework for future improvements. But why do we expect so little from the US? Why do we treat the world’s most powerful and innovative nation as if it were a failed state, rejoicing at even the faintest suggestion of common sense?”

  9. James Thompson says:

    The numbers are interesting. According to Monbiot the 17% cut by 2020 will not even claw back the 20% INCREASE since 1990. Yet the rest of the world is still working on the 1990 baseline.

    “Between 1990 and 2005, US carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels rose from 5.8 to 7bn tonnes. The cut proposed by 2020 is just 17%…”

    Shameful.

  10. Yuebing says:

    James writes: “As no one country (even the US) can make a significant dent in global CO2 emissions by itself, surely the primary aim of climate legislation is to impress other countries in the hope that they follow suit?”

    More than that I believe:

    *As the world’s largest economy remakes itself into an efficient prosperous and non polluting enterprise, we will demonstrate the new standard, and catalyze change throughout the world. Renewables and efficiency ARE the better economic choices–but we need to achieve a large scale demonstration of that to close the door on all the “burn baby burn” crowd’s noise. Once demonstrated, other economies will follow. Just look at what Energy Star has accomplished so far.

    *Between the US’s emissions, and the emissions created in other countries like China to make the stuff we buy, the US is the largest single emitter. Much of it from coal, which could continue to grow both here and in China to support our lifestyle. Reversing that, which HR2454 gets started on, is a paramount climate saving objective. There are excellent low cabon and carbon free energy supplies available bothe here and in China, India, Australia, etc.

    *As a major agricultural producer, the US has too much to lose from Global Warming. Just reducing our own emissions will have a real economic impact on our farmers.

    HR2454 has warts, true. But it is 10,000 times better than no law at all.

  11. dhogaza says:

    I know about statistical analysis, but I’m still not willing to buy that a random sampling of only 1,001 people is large enough to get a solid reading —

    No, it’s based on sound statistics. Statistics and probability theory yield remarkably unintuitive results, which is what keeps casinos in business.

    This explains why the polls are so often off the mark by more than their stated margin of error when actual votes are taken and large numbers of people are registering their opinion

    There are several things to say …

    1. First the confidence intervals are probably set at two standard deviations, i.e. about 5% of the time the actual results will fall outside the poll results.

    2. If you have a binary question and, say, the poll result is “A favors B 51% to 49% +/- 3%”, a real-world result with B getting 51% and A getting 49% simultaneously contradicts the “A is winning” statement while BEING WITHIN THE MARGIN OF ERROR. I think this example shows the basic problem pollsters face when reporting on any issue where the results are close.

    3. People change their minds.

    4. People don’t always tell pollsters the truth.

    5. When it comes to elections you have to look at “likely voters” not all respondents, but the “likely voter” selection process has its own uncertainty interval (it can’t be precise, heck, if nothing else people fall ill or die suddenly), muddying things further.

  12. Chris Winter says:

    James Thompson relayed this from George Monbiot:

    “But why do we expect so little from the US? Why do we treat the world’s most powerful and innovative nation as if it were a failed state, rejoicing at even the faintest suggestion of common sense??

    I submit the answer is not hard to spot: it lies in the quality of our political debate. Just within the past few minutes, Republicans in the House are mouthing the same old lies in the runup to a floor vote on HR 2454. One of them said that global warming is a hoax. Another claimed the bill will kill millions of jobs, and added that there is no discussion about this. Never has there been a more transparent slab of sophistry.

    The nation that aspires to be “the leader of the free world” should be better than this. Hell, it has to be better than this. If it merely aspires to survive intact beyond the current generation, it has to be better than this.

  13. Catherine says:

    Will anyone ever address how the ‘accepted’ scientific models have ignored or even disregarded the natural causes and inputs to Climate Change?

    [snip]

    [JR: So there has been a vast conspiracy among the entire scientific community -- including every peer-reviewed journal and all the national academies of science -- to violate the rules of science? Not. Try actually reading any of the major analyses, which include all natural causes and inputs, clearly demonstrating that those are being overwhelmed by human-cost forcings. Push your conspiracy theories elsewhere.]