Californians – Harbingers of Environment Values

Although this Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) Survey conducted in July 2012 only looks at Californians’ voting preferences in consideration with the environment, as a state that heralds landmark initiatives like AB32, respondent sentiment provides insight on how the rest of the nation might perceive similar initiatives. While the survey found strong partisan divide on support for AB32, there was majority support across party lines on specific actions the government is doing to address global warming, such as requiring businesses to reduce their emissions and increasing residential energy efficiency. In addition, the survey found many Californians unaware of the cap-and-trade component of AB32. A lesson from these findings may be that for a measure to have a chance for success, we must take care to describe and not label it, to talk about the beneficial components that relate to and are understandable by Americans.

Californians & The Environment: July 2012
By: Mark Baldassare, Dean Bonner, Sonja Petek and Jui Shrestha

The PPIC Statewide Survey provides policymakers, the media, and the public with objective,
advocacy-free information on the perceptions, opinions, and public policy preferences of California
residents. This is the 127th PPIC Statewide Survey in a series that was inaugurated in April 1998
and has generated a database of responses from more than 268,000 Californians. The current
survey, Californians and the Environment, was conducted with funding from The William and Flora
Hewlett Foundation. Its goal is to inform state policymakers, encourage discussion, and raise public
awareness about Californians’ opinions on air pollution, global warming, and energy policy. It is the
12th annual PPIC Statewide Survey on environmental issues since 2000.

Historic drought conditions, unseasonably high temperatures, and wildfires this summer, a presidential campaign during an ongoing economic crisis, and controversy over an oil and gas drilling method called hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” set the national context for this year’s survey. At the state level, efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase the use of renewable energy
continue. A major component of the state’s landmark Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32)
is the cap-and-trade program. Cap and trade will set enforceable limits on the major sources of
greenhouse gases, such as refineries, power plants, industrial facilities, and transportation fuels,
and create a market allowing companies with emissions below their caps to sell excess permits to
companies that exceed their limits. The first auction of emissions permits will occur in November
and companies must comply with caps beginning in January 2013. There are debates about how
this new environmental policy will affect employment and the economic recovery, how new state
revenues generated from the cap and trade market should be spent, and whether companies that
buy permits will create a disparate amount of unhealthful emissions in lower-income areas.

This year’s survey focuses on timely and relevant environmental and energy issues, including cap
and trade and fracking. It presents the responses of 2,500 adult residents throughout California,
interviewed in multiple languages by landline or cell phone, and includes findings on:

  • The 2012 presidential election, including the role of global warming and energy policy in
    determining voting preferences, and approval ratings of federal and state elected officials’
    handling of environmental issues; perceptions of regional air pollution, associated health risks,
    and whether the risks are more serious in lower-income areas, and willingness to toughen air
    pollution standards.
  • Global warming, including perceptions of its existence and onset; preferences for AB 32 and
    views of how state action on global warming will affect employment; preferences about ways
    government can regulate emissions, including a low carbon fuel standard; attitudes toward cap
    and trade; opinions about local, state, and federal action on global warming; preferences for
    energy policy, including rewnewable energy, nuclear power, fuel efficiency, and oil drilling; and,
    for the first time, knowledge and support of fracking.
  • Time trends, national comparisons, and the extent to which Californians may differ in their
    perceptions, attitudes, and preferences based on political party affiliation, likelihood of voting,
    region of residence (Central Valley, San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles County, Inland Empire,
    and Orange/San Diego Counties), race/ethnicity (Asians, blacks, Latinos, and non-Hispanic
    whites), and other demographic characteristics.

Read the full survey here.

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