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Obama’s campaign pollster: “In the aftermath of the oil spill disaster, voters overwhelmingly support a comprehensive clean energy bill…. Voters understand the dangers of our dependence on oil. Now, theyre ready to hold Congress accountable.”

By Joe Romm  

"Obama’s campaign pollster: “In the aftermath of the oil spill disaster, voters overwhelmingly support a comprehensive clean energy bill…. Voters understand the dangers of our dependence on oil. Now, theyre ready to hold Congress accountable.”"

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WashPost: “Dems have a real opportunity to seize on the Gulf spill to make energy reform a major issue.”

Joel Benenson, who “was Obama’s lead pollster” during the 2008 campaign,” has released a must-read strategy memo, “Support for energy bill.”

Based on polling of 650 registered voters May 4 and 5 — still the early days of BP’s Titanic oil disaster — Benenson finds, “not only do voters support a comprehensive clean energy bill by large double-digit margins, they also indicate their Senator’s vote could be an impactful re-election factor.”  Here are the numbers:

  • Overall, 61% of 2010 voters support and just 31% oppose a bill “that will limit pollution, invest in domestic energy sources and encourage companies to use and develop clean energy. It would do this in part by charging energy companies for carbon pollution in electricity or fuels like oil.”
  • 54% would be more likely to re-elect their Senator if he or she voted for the bill (just 30% would be less likely to re-elect).
  • 51% would be less likely to re-elect their Senator if he or she voted against the bill (just 30% would be more likely).

As Greg Sargent writes at WashPost‘s The Plum Line:

The poll strongly supports the view, expressed by Al Gore and many others, that the spill represents a real chance to achieve a fundamental shift in the public conversation on energy reform. It shows how absurd it is that so many in the Senate have decided that the spill should make reform less likely.

Duh?

The memo notes, “Not surprisingly given the above, by almost two-to-one, voters agree that now is the time for Senators to act while opposition messaging falls flat. When asked which they agree with more:”

  • 59% of voters agree that “Now is the time for Senators to take action. Oil companies and lobbyists have fought energy reform for decades to protect their profits. Our dependence on oil hurts our economy, helps our enemies and puts our security at risk. It’s time to put America back in control – with clean energy that’s made in America and works for America.”
  • Just 31% agree that “Senators would be wrong to try to use this tragedy to pass a huge new Washington program and job-killing energy tax. Their plan will raise the price of gas right at the pump, hurt middle class families and stop oil drilling in America, which is a big part of the long-term solution to making us less dependent on foreign oil.”

Sargent says Benenson told him:

“The American people think it’s more urgent to take action now.  Americans don’t find credible the scare tactics of those who remain opposed to this. It’s a potentially potent issue with American voters. It is kind of issue that for many key constituencies defines the basic values of their elected officials and candidates.”

The memo points out that

While support has always been high for the energy bill, 39% of voters now say they are more likely to support it in the wake of the oil spill (14% say it makes them more likely to oppose the bill and 47% say it does not affect their view).

Yes, Benenson knows support has always been high for the energy bill “” a view that remains contrary to the conventional wisdom inside the DC beltway despite countless polls supporting his view:

Obama actually has a real chance here to reset the debate and show that he actually believes the pretty words about the urgent need for the clean energy transition he’s been using in countless speeches over the past two years.

We’ll find out soon if he is going to come out of his cocoon or not, as so many of us have been pleading:

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20 Responses to Obama’s campaign pollster: “In the aftermath of the oil spill disaster, voters overwhelmingly support a comprehensive clean energy bill…. Voters understand the dangers of our dependence on oil. Now, theyre ready to hold Congress accountable.”

  1. prokaryote says:

    “not only do voters support a comprehensive clean energy bill by large double-digit margins, they also indicate their Senator’s vote could be an impactful re-election factor.”

    Exactly the opposite of what the disinformers (financed by oil and coal) try to suggest.

    [JR: Amazing how disinformation by pro-pollution elites trumps the real views of the public.]

  2. Leif says:

    It is important to note that this shift has happened with almost no reinforcement from President Obama. If he would give some serious lip service here I strongly feel that the numbers would improve even more.

    Good to see in it’s own right none the less.

    What will the media do with these numbers?

  3. Chris Dudley says:

    Sounds like they would prefer Waxman-Markey to the Senate monstrosity. I’d say bring it up for a vote.

  4. Chris Dudley says:

    This article from the Atlantic is worth reading: http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2010/05/no-easy-villains-may-mean-no-easy-oil/56498/ It discusses systemic problems in offshore oil drilling.

  5. Jeff Huggins says:

    A Problem

    Many politicians, most pundits, many in the press, certainly all pollsters, and many members of the public assume or believe that politicians should do precisely what polls and the public want on any given issue.

    (If so, why not just have buttons in all homes for each member of the public to vote directly on every matter?!)

    Meanwhile, we all know that our educational system is not so good in many respects, that many of the issues we face are complex and require expertise, that many of us are distracted and barely understand certain issues, and that people consciously try to confuse us and manipulate us on key issues.

    So, if we feel that a politician’s job is to vote exactly the way that a poll shows the public wants her/him to vote on a particular complex issue, but we also understand that most members of the public are either distracted, don’t understand some of these issues, have been confused by various politicians and/or the media, or may have been confused by the simplistic poll questions, and etc., then we are essentially saying that we want to make our largest decisions — those that will influence our well-being — based on misinformation, disinformation, distraction, confusion, misunderstanding, and a great deal of un-wisdom.

    What I’d like is for excellent, intelligent, high-calibre, politicians (public servants) of character to make key decisions, on an informed and wise basis, aimed at the good of society.

    I understand that this may sound a bit idealistic. But that’s not my point. My point is this: By thinking and assuming that politicians will and should just brainlessly vote the way the polls indicate, we cement that point-of-view, enable it, and even condone it. We confuse matters.

    I’m glad that the public is starting to “get it” more and more. But excellent and informed politicians shouldn’t need to wait for the public to “get it” in order to vote in a way that serves the public good.

    Cheers,

    Jeff

  6. Bob Wallace says:

    Jeff – “I’m glad that the public is starting to “get it” more and more. But excellent and informed politicians shouldn’t need to wait for the public to “get it” in order to vote in a way that serves the public good.”

    I don’t think that we can expect our elected officials to work solely for the public good until we relieve them of the burden of raising money for campaigns.

  7. Bill W says:

    Jeff Huggins wrote at #4: “What I’d like is for excellent, intelligent, high-calibre, politicians (public servants) of character to make key decisions, on an informed and wise basis, aimed at the good of society. ”

    Do you know where we can find any politicians that meet those criteria, Jeff? There don’t seem to be any in Congress, as far as I can tell.

    That being said, I tend to agree with you. What you propose is exactly what the founding fathers had in mind when they crafted our system of government. It’s not terribly unusual that doing the right thing is unpopular, but we need politicians who are willing to do the unpopular when it’s the right thing to do. In this case, we need them to do the popular when it’s the right thing to do, but apparently it goes against their own self-interest.

  8. Jay Turner says:

    I wonder how the cost of implementing climate legislation compares to a handful of really big oil spills or a few Katrinas? A bit of perspective might help. Not doing energy regulation has very real costs.

  9. David B. Benson says:

    I don’t like the “EPA hands off” approach of either version.

    Please so inform your congresscritters.

  10. mike roddy says:

    I agree, David, #9. It’s incredible that in order to pass a modest bill already full of giveways to fossil fuels that we have to eviscerate regulation, too.

  11. Lou Grinzo says:

    Jay: Bingo! That’s the approach I’ve long thought was underused by “our” side, comparing the cost of inaction plus adaptation and repair with the cost of pre-emptive action.

    Does anyone here remember those TV ads for Fram oil filters–”you can pay me now or pay me later”– contrasting the cost of regular oil and filter changes with the cost of a blown engine? Maybe we need some Senator to mention that ad in a hearing and then back it up with cost estimates from non-partisan experts.

  12. Leif says:

    If congress is determined to take the EPA out of the picture perhaps a “sunset clause” of say a year would be in order.

  13. raleigh Latham says:

    Emailed Senator Graham and told him to either do what is right for the country, or forever be branded as a failure and a disappointment in the eyes of Americans.

  14. sailrick says:

    “excellent, high caliber politicians of character to make key decisions”

    We once had leaders who honored and repected disinterestedness as the highest quality in a leader, placing great emphasis on this ideal They were our founding fathers. This ideal, for example, explains why Washington retired right after the Revolution, and then retired again from the presidency, when everyone assumed he would be president for life. He didn’t want to be seen as self interested or eager for power or fame.

    But like Bob Wallace said, campaign financing just about eliminates the possibility of maintaining such high standards of excellence.

    If you like history, a great book is “Revolutionary Characters: What Made the Founders Different” by Gordon S. Wood

  15. Bruce Post says:

    Thank you, Jeff Huggins … and also Bill W.! Having had a career on Capitol Hill and on presidential candidate campaign staffs, I have seen my share of polls. And, I have witnessed how this phrase “Well, the poll says …” has led to decisions that the decider would later regret. Polls are simply pernicious and add one more element of corrosion to our eroding polity. That speaks to Jeff’s point. What Bill W. has highlighted underscores my conviction about our education system: You can be intensely schooled and amass numerous degrees without be “educated.” I am sure our current Congress has its share of well-educated, credentialed individuals; that itself is a prima facie case that our education system has failed by producing schooled individuals who cannot make rational, informed and effective decisions. What we need more is not an education system but a wisdom system. For the life of me, though, how in the heck do we achieve that?

  16. Wit's End says:

    61% support a bill “that will limit pollution, invest in domestic energy sources and encourage companies to use and develop clean energy. It would do this in part by charging energy companies for carbon pollution in electricity or fuels like oil.”

    Note, the references (2 of them) to pollution. Not climate change. Climate change is still seen by many as far off and debatable. Pollution is here, now, it makes people sick, it kills wildlife (and trees). It’s a winning issue, not just for girly men and hippies!

  17. jcwinnie says:

    I think Will Rogers would have observed that we haven’t yet given the Senators enough rope.

  18. catman306 says:

    Kevin Drum writes that he thinks the climate bill is dead. Change his mind.

    http://motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2010/05/climate-bill-dead

    [JR: Why?]

  19. catman306 says:

    Kevin Drum writes:
    “I think climate change legislation is dead. There’s not enough time for a bill to go through the committee process, get passed by the Senate, sent to conference, amended, and then passed by the full Congress before the midterms, and after the midterms Democrats will probably be reduced to 53 or 54 members in the Senate. Some of them won’t vote for a climate bill, which means you’d need to find ten or a dozen Republicans to break a filibuster, and that’s just not gonna happen.”

  20. Con10tious says:

    Those poll questions were very narrow. I think if Mr. Benson asked if people would support a clean energy bill that would “skyrocket” their energy costs the results would be much different.