A new study released by Stanford shows that although a majority of Americans (63%) still support economic policies that support greener energy, that number has fallen almost 10 percentage points since 2010. Theories for this downward trend include: a decline of media coverage on climate change, growing economic concerns that monopolize priorities of Americans, and a dramatic drop in Republican support on greenhouse gas reduction and solid belief on climate change.
Public support slips for steps to curb climate change
From gas-mileage standards to tax breaks for windmills, public support for “green” energy measures to tackle global warming has dropped significantly in the past two years, particularly among Republicans, a new poll suggests.
Cross-post from USA Today
by Dan Vergano
Overall, support for various steps to cut greenhouse gas emissions has dropped an average of 10 percentage points since 2010, from 72% to 62%, lead researcher Jon Krosnick says. “Most Americans (62%) still support industry taking steps aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions,” Krosnick says, “but they hate the idea of consumer taxes to do it.” His group’s nationwide polls compared responses from 1,001 people in 2010 to 1,428 people this year.
In 2010, the National Academy of Sciences called for “strong federal policies” to curb greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels, such as oil, gasoline, coal and natural gas. It warned that “climate change is occurring” and said these fuels are partly to blame. The warning came after the failure in 2009 of a Senate bill that would have created a U.S. market for rights to buy and sell greenhouse gas emissions credits.
In a March Gallup poll, 53% of Americans agreed that “global warming is caused by pollution resulting from human activities,” similar to percentages in past years.
Public opinion experts including Drexel University’s Robert Brulle point to declining news coverage of global warming for the falling support of steps to fight greenhouse gases; others cite the economy’s doldrums.
Krosnick suggests that distrust of environmental scientists among Republican voters, expressed by about 41% of them in the poll, may explain much of the drop. Such distrust was not seen as strongly among independent and Democratic voters, he says. The average drop in support for these policies was about 7 percentage points among those who identified themselves as Democrats or independents vs. 14 points for Republicans.
Since Republican Sen. John McCain expressed support for steps to slow global warming during the 2008 presidential race, “we have seen a significant shift in political rhetoric in the primary races in Republican debates,” Krosnick says. (McCain says he no longer supports such steps.) This year, Republican debates regularly featured the views of likely nominee Mitt Romney, who has said, “We don’t know what’s causing climate change.”
Brulle says the effect of the economy on views about climate change needs to be more carefully studied.
Even if the public supports steps to address global warming, Brulle says, “opinion on climate change and environmental issues overall has consistently ranked at the bottom of the overall public concerns” in polling. Just 1% of people ranked the environment as a “top concern” in the Gallup Poll in March.