Poll: Americans Trust EPA, Not Congress, to Clean Our Air

Voters want the EPA, and not Congress, to set pollution standards. An overwhelming 66 percent majority (including sizeable majorities of Democrats, independents and Republicans) agrees that “Scientists at the EPA should set pollution standards, not politicians in Congress” while only 21 percent agree that “our elected representatives in Congress should set pollution standards, not unelected bureaucrats at the EPA.”

Days after the GOP debate in which Minnesota Congresswoman and Presidential hopeful Michelle Bachmann called for a wholesale repeal of EPA clean air and water regulations, a new bi-partisan survey shows the vast majority of Americans don’t agree with her stance.

A poll released by the American Lung Association surveyed 2,400 likely Republican, Democratic and Independent voters and found that 75% support stricter smog standards proposed by the EPA.

According to the survey, American voters also rejected the idea that Congress should take away EPA’s authority to regulate smog. Before hearing a debate on the issue, 74% of those surveyed rejected Congressional opposition to the EPA. After hearing a balanced debate, the number dropped to 64% — still a sizable majority.


Even moderate Republicans and Republican women overwhelmingly support the EPA after a balanced debate. The only groups that show significant support for Congressional action to stop the EPA from updating smog standards are conservative Republicans, Republican men and strong supporters of the Tea Party.

Opponents to new EPA standards have been hammering away on the jobs issue, claiming that new regulations of air pollution would destroy the economy. In this week’s GOP debate, Bachmann stepped up the rhetoric by calling for a the EPA to “be renamed the job-killing organization of America.”

Those claims have not been backed up by historical experience:

In 1970 conservatives argued that enforcement of the Clean Air Act would “cause entire industries to collapse.” In 1975, they argued that “EPA’s power grab could easily spread to other activities: population control, complete regulation of all business.” In 1980, conservatives said the Clean Air Act would cause “a quiet death for business across the country.”

A group of progressive utilities representing 146,000 MW of capacity, the Clean Energy Group, actually supports the new regulations, saying that industry has had a long time to prepare for them. A number of reports have also been released in recent weeks showing that new regulations will spur job growth through retrofitting coal plants and developing cleaner sources of energy. Here’s the conclusion from Ceres:

New air pollution rules proposed for the electric power sector by the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) will provide long-term economic benefits across much of the United States in the form of highly skilled, well paying jobs […] investments driven by the EPA’s two new air quality rules will create nearly 1.5 million jobs, or nearly 300,000 jobs a year on average over the next five years.”

According to the findings in this latest ALA poll, a majority of Americans don’t buy the claim that new regulations will kill jobs:

The bi-partisan poll was commissioned by the ALA and conducted by the Democratic strategy-consulting group Greenburg Quinlan Rosner and the Republican strategy-consulting group Moore Information.

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