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Public opinion snapshot: Public backs key elements of global warming bill

Ruy Teixeira, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, is a leading expert on public opinion analysis. This post was first published here.

The American Clean Energy and Security Act has a long way to go until it clears Congress and lands on President Barack Obama’s desk. And there’s no question that the climate change legislation under consideration is complicated and that the public’s understanding of the bill’s details is limited. But it’s worth noting that the public is supportive of the broad goal and approach of this legislation.

For example, 75 percent of respondents in a mid-June ABC News/Washington Post poll said the federal government should “regulate the release of greenhouse gases from sources like power plants, cars, and factories in an effort to reduce global warming.” Just 21 percent disagreed. Moreover, when those who agreed that the federal government should regulate greenhouse gases were asked if they would still support this if it raised the price of the things they buy, 80 percent of that group still said yes.

The public also expressed majority support (52–42) for a “cap-and-trade” approach to greenhouse gas regulation in the same poll. This is despite the complicated nature of the proposal, which may confuse some respondents.

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And the public believes it is necessary to move ahead on the climate change bill, even if the rest of the world is not moving at the same time. Almost three-fifths (59 percent) said the United States should take action on global warming even if other countries such as China and India are doing less to address the issue, compared to 38 percent who thought either we should take action only if these countries take equally aggressive action (20 percent) or we should do nothing (18 percent).

The message seems clear: The public is open to substantial action to tackle the global warming problem. And with some timely congressional action, they just might get that.

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