Public Opinion Stunner: WashPost-ABC Poll Finds Strong Support for Global Warming Reductions Despite Relentless Big Oil and Anti-Science Attacks

This is a guest post by CAP’s Daniel J. Weiss.

Today’s new Washington Post-ABC News Poll demonstrates yet again that the American people want action to “regulate the release of greenhouse gases from sources like power plants, cars and factories in an effort to reduce global warming.”  Respondents supported this statement by more than two to one (65 percent favor, 29 percent oppose).  This poll was conducted December 10-13, at the height of the trumped up brouhaha over stolen emails from a British climate research institution.  These findings are consistent with the Associated Press-Stanford University poll released on Tuesday.


The WP-ABC poll 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

As Climate Progress documents nearly every day, the scientific debate over the existence of global warming has been settled, despite what Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and other climate deniers might claim.  Every day there is new data or evidence that global warming is here and having an impact on our planet.  The only questions are the speed and severity of the impacts, and whether humans can promptly reduce their global warming pollution enough to stave off the worst impacts of climate change.

Despite this scientific consensus, big oil companies and global warming deniers are doing their best to undermine this scientific consensus by raising questions in the public’s mind about scientific uncertainty.  The media has allowed this debate to focus on distractions like the stolen emails, converting the discussion to a case of “he said, she said,” rather than cover the much more relevant global warming threat and economic opportunities. The strategy of raising enough questions about settled science to cause public uncertainty is the same approach the tobacco industry employed for years to prevent adoption of restrictions on tobacco use even though scientists and doctors determined that smoking cigarettes cause cancer and other serious diseases.

The WP-ABC News poll reflects the partial success of this strategy.  It found that 36 percent of respondents believe that “most scientists agree with one another about whether or not global warming is happening,” while 62 percent “think there is a lot of disagreement among scientists on this issue.”  One could theorize that this could reflect the effectiveness of deniers’ efforts to use the stolen emails to undermine the public’s acceptance of the global warming consensus.

Interestingly, there is little evidence of this occurrence.  The public’s perception of the degree of scientific agreement has varied relatively little over the last dozen years.  Various polls have asked this question over the last twelve years, and the answers ranged from 30 to 40 percent who believe that there is scientific agreement, while 56 to 67 percent believe there is not consensus.  And the numbers are identical in a 1997 Ohio State University poll and this new WP-ABC poll – 35-62 percent in the former, and 36-62 percent in the latter.


Despite the public’s uncertainty about scientific agreement, they still overwhelmingly favor action.  Half the respondents in the WP-ABC poll “strongly” believe that the government should require pollution reductions, while only one fifth of respondents strongly oppose such action. (50-20 percent)

The just released Washington Post-ABC poll yet again reinforces that Americans overwhelmingly want the government to reform our energy programs to create jobs, cut pollution, and increase American energy independence.  It’s up to the United States Senate to respond to this vox populi early in 2010.

Related posts on polling:

15 Responses to Public Opinion Stunner: WashPost-ABC Poll Finds Strong Support for Global Warming Reductions Despite Relentless Big Oil and Anti-Science Attacks

  1. David B. Benson says:

    “Can’t fool aall of the people all of the time.”

  2. Chris Dudley says:

    Wait, that poll doesn’t add up to 120%. You can’t use it on Fox.

  3. Mike#22 says:

    What would the results have been if instead they asked: “even if it would lower your energy bill”?

  4. Jeff Kelley says:

    You bunch of hacks just keep trying to convince yourselves. WAPO…Bias much. A real scientist is not concerned with public opinion. Truth is not up for debate. Times up on this scam. to the next one.

  5. From Peru says:

    Well, People understand the mere POSSIBILITY of a Climate Disaster (as opposed to the CERTAINTY) in enought to take drastic actions.

    It is like: Can anyone do nothing if he/she knows that there is a 1% chance of finding a poisonous snake in the bed?
    No thinking person would risk his/her life in the name of “there is no certainty that I will be beaten by a poisonous snake”.

    It is pretty obvious to any thinking person the following:

  6. Leif says:

    In keeping with the question of Mike #22. How about a poll asking: Would you support rigorous action on green house gasses if you knew for sure that up front costs will be a lot less than costs in thirty years? That delayed action will disrupted agriculture and water systems? That delayed action will lead to millions, perhaps billions of ecologic refugees, if not within your life time, certainly within your children’s? Action now has a good chance of reinvigorating the present economy and improving the GDP? Delayed action will lead to ocean acidification and sever disruption to the oceans food production?
    All of the above is just as much a probability as the cost of $10 to $20. In fact the latest CBO report says in fact that action will improve the GDP. All of the above is much more likely than blissfully tripping down the yellow brick road which we have been off for a long time anyway. IMO

  7. BobSmith says:

    You’re right… none of those poles add up to 120%!!

    I think we’ve been duped.

  8. Finally something of value on the climate change issue from WaPo. Merry Freakin’ Christmas!

  9. Stan says:

    It might come as a shock to you that “transparency” and “global warming research” are like night and day. Folks interested in checking the calculations have been prevented from doing so for years by the scientists’ refusal to make available the raw data & the methods used to perform the calculations.

    Our best choice of action right now is to stop all action on climate regulations, force all of the global warming scientists to publish their raw data, and to give the scientific community about a year to properly check the results. Only when everyone is sure that a real problem exists, should money be thrown at it.

  10. Sorry Stan – but I can’t let your well thought out suggestions about stopping all action on climate regulations, go without comment.

    The truth is it’s only people like you who are prevented from checking the real global warming research and calculations. Your name is on the list (I just checked) and we have you blocked from the actual data because we know you can’t handle the truth. Believe me, it’s for your own good, Stan.

    Our file on you says you’d suffer a total and complete breakdown if you understood just how bad things have gotten with warming and climate change and that you’d just sob uncontrollably if you grokked the fate of the children in the small island states and other most vulnerable places. That’s why we have your access blocked. We just don’t want to break your heart into a million little pieces.

    We already spent well over a year checking all the science results, just like you suggested Stan, and here’s a chart we’ve been hiding from you:,0,6843588.graphic

    Normally we don’t let folks like you see this stuff, but you seem so sincere and you did take the time to write – and after all, it’s the holiday season and you really deserve this gift from the reality based world.

  11. Chris Winter says:


    You should know that there will always be someone who doesn’t accept the scientific consensus on global warming. Your proposal is therefore a recipe for permanent lack of action.

  12. mike roddy says:

    This is good and surprising news, thanks. Let’s see if Obama steps up with this built in political capital and does something historic.

  13. memory foam says:

    It’s also good news that the recent summit at least made some progress … if nothing had come of it this positive public approval for reductions would certainly have slipped.

  14. David Schonberger says:

    Fantastic, insightful argument, Jeff Kelley. Is that the best you have?

    You are right about one thing: Truth is not up for debate when it comes to climate change. And despite the ridiculously overblown, much-ado-about-nothing so-called Climategate, the actual scientific evidence is overwhelming: global cimate change is real; it is happening now; it is highly likely caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases due to burning of fossil fuels; and short of drastic mitigation efforts on a massive worldwide scale beginning now and lead by the U.S. and other major emitters, the living species on our one and only planet are headed like a runaway train towards unimaginable misery, suffering, and catastrophic collapse.

    The climate change realists among us certainly wish it were not so. But one can only bury one’s head in the sand for so long. You want to be part of the problem rather than the solution? You want to stay willfully ignorant rather than getting educated? Great! More power to you. But you are about to be washed over by the rising tide of people who “get it,” and who will stand for nothing less than real and strong action to fix a monstrously large, messy and very real problem.

    All the best to you, sir. And here’s hoping you one day very soon come to your senses and snap into action yourself.


  15. steve pritz says:

    It’s sad but apparently true that a willing blindness continues to delay major action to address the worst threats to our well-being. We continue to spend trillions on that barbaric old habit of war, despite all the evidence history provides that it will be money and patriotism wasted. Trillions for wars of dubious merit, but little more than hot air for these looming problems (of our own making) that promise our grandchildren a world we’d certainly prefer not to live in. If the deniers of these problems were to find a way to profit from the solutions, they’d most likely see the light. The tobacco industry certainly doesn’t seem to have gained a better vision or conscience yet, they simply push their poison harder elsewhere. Should we expect any less a fight from Big Oil and Coal? Only unprecedented grassroots support has the potential to break the grip these interests have on our government.