On environment, Obama and scientists take hit in poll

Washington Post logo2 Leading into Copenhagen, Obama was coming off increased public doubt around climate change, particularly climate science (due to ClimateGate). Despite that, a poll found that almost two-thirds of respondents thought that the government should regulate greenhouse gas emissions (down 10 % from June). The most interesting thing about the poll was how many people said they would support regulations even if they increased their energy bills.

Posted Dec. 18, 2009
By Jon Cohen and Jennifer Agiesta, The Washington Post

As President Obama arrives in Copenhagen hoping to seal an elusive deal on climate change,
his approval rating on dealing with global warming has crumbled at home
and there is broad opposition to spending taxpayer money to encourage
developing nations to curtail their energy use, according to a new
Washington Post-ABC News poll.

There's also rising public doubt and growing political polarization
about what scientists have to say on the environment, and a widespread
perception that there is a lot of disagreement among scientists about
whether global warming is happening.

But for all the challenges American policymakers have to overcome,
nearly two-thirds of people surveyed say the federal government should
regulate the release of greenhouse gases from sources like power
plants, cars and factories in an effort to curb global warming. Last
week the Environmental Protection Agency said it is putting together plans to control the emissions of six gases deemed dangerous to the environment and public.

Support for such a regulation is down 10 percentage points from June,
but majorities of Americans remain supportive of such regulations even
if they increased monthly bills, so long as they lower greenhouse gas
levels. If energy bills jumped $10 a month, 60 percent back new limits;
at $25 a month, it's 55 percent.

Most, however, oppose a widely floated proposal in which the United
States and other industrialized countries would contribute $10 billion
a year to help developing countries pay for reducing the amount of
greenhouse gases they release. Overall, 57 percent of those polled
oppose this idea; 39 percent support it. Most Republicans (74 percent)
and independents (58 percent) are against this proposal, while a small
majority of Democrats (54 percent) are supportive.

At the same time, there's growing negativity toward the president's
handling of the broader global warming issue. Around the 100-day mark
of Obama's presidency, 61 percent approved of the way he was dealing
with the issue. Approval slumped to 54 percent in June and to 45
percent in the new poll.

The drop in Obama's ratings has been driven by a steep slump among
political independents, who went from 62 percent positive in April to
36 percent now.

Scientists themselves also come in for more negative assessments in
the poll, with four in 10 Americans now saying that they place little
or no trust in what scientists have to say about the environment.
That's up significantly in recent years. About 58 percent of
Republicans now put little or no faith in scientists on the subject,
double the number saying so in April 2007. Over this time frame,
distrust among independents bumped up from 24 to 40 percent, while
Democrats changed only marginally. Among seniors, the number of
skeptics more than doubled, to 51 percent.

The declining confidence comes when the administration is trying
to get momentum for an international pact on climate change, leveraging
broad consensus among scientists that global warming is a real threat
that demands immediate action. Another obstacle, however, is that
relatively few of those polled perceive such an accord.

In fact, more than six in 10 Americans see a lot of disagreement
among scientists on the issue of global warming. That's the view of
nearly eight in 10 Republicans and about two-thirds of independents. A
smaller majority of Democrats, 55 percent, see general agreement among
the scientific community.

The poll
was conducted by telephone Thursday through Sunday among a random
national sample of 1,003 adults. Results from the full survey have a
margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.

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