Environmental Polling Roundup – February 3, 2023
- Yale Program on Climate Change Communication (YPCCC) + George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication (GMU 4C) – Americans’ climate attitudes are continuing to grow more polarized, but bipartisan majorities support clean energy and conservation efforts (Executive Summary, Full Report)
- Navigator – There is little sign of the “gas stove debate” breaking through yet, as voters of all political affiliations say that they like both electric stoves and gas stoves (Topline)
- Morning Consult – Americans are split on the idea of banning gas in new construction (Article)
- Data for Progress – Most Americans say they’re more likely to purchase an electric stove than a gas stove, and two-thirds support regulating the emissions from gas-burning stoves after reading about the harmful indoor pollution that they create (Article, Topline)
- Clean energy development continues to be less polarizing than climate action. The YPCCC and GMU 4C once again find a deep partisan divide around global warming as a priority for the federal government, but they also find broad, cross-partisan agreement that the country should focus on developing sources of clean energy. In addition, a wide range of policies to boost clean energy production and energy efficiency – such as generating renewable energy on public lands and providing incentives for Americans to purchase appliances that don’t use fossil fuels – attract bipartisan support. This creates a clear pathway for environmental advocates to bring conservative Americans on board with pro-climate policies without triggering these voters’ partisan responses to “climate change” or “global warming.”
- The appeal of an “all-of-the-above” energy approach is a problem that environmental advocates need to confront. Amid the energy crisis last year, we saw that the public wanted to increase domestic energy production of all kinds – both clean and dirty – even as they recognized that war-fueled spikes in oil prices made it even more important for the U.S. to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. The YPCCC and GMU 4C find that the appeal of this “all-of-the-above” approach to domestic energy approach isn’t going away, with majorities continuing to support offshore drilling and fossil fuel extraction on public lands. Environmental advocates have developed effective arguments for increasing clean energy production, but we now need to convince the public that fossil fuels can and should be phased out as we generate more energy from clean and renewable sources.
- Everyday Americans don’t seem to particularly care about the “gas stove debate,” but it’s not a topic that environmental advocates should eagerly engage on. Polls released by Navigator, Morning Consult, and Data for Progress this week find that attitudes toward different types of stoves aren’t especially polarized, as Americans are already leaning in favor of electric stoves for their own homes, partisanship has no clear relationship with people’s stove choices, and partisans on both sides tend to have positive attitudes about both gas and electric stoves. However, Morning Consult also finds that proposed bans on new residential gas hookups are divisive, and the Data for Progress and YPCCC/GMU 4C polls find that there are plenty of popular policies to reduce indoor gas pollution – including incentives for household electrification and regulations on gas stove emissions – that advocates can focus on instead of wading into a debate over a fictional plan to take away people’s gas stoves.
GOOD DATA POINTS TO HIGHLIGHT
- [Clean Energy] 79% of voters support funding more research into renewable energy sources [Yale + GMU]
- [Clean Energy] 79% of voters support generating renewable energy on public lands [Yale + GMU]
- [Justice] 68% of voters support increasing federal funding to low-income communities and communities of color who are disproportionately harmed by air and water pollution [Yale + GMU]
- [100% Clean] 66% of voters support transitioning the U.S. economy from fossil fuels to 100% clean energy by 2050 [Yale + GMU]
- [Clean Energy] 65% of voters say that developing sources of clean energy should be a “high” or “very high” priority for the president and Congress [Yale + GMU]
- [Stoves] Most Americans (54%) would prefer to purchase an electric stove if they were in the market for a new stove, including majorities of both Democrats (57%) and Republicans (53%) [Data for Progress]
- [100% Clean] 62% of voters support requiring electric utilities to produce 100% of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2035 [Yale + GMU]
- [Climate Emergency] 55% of voters support a U.S. president declaring global warming a national emergency if Congress does not take further action [Yale + GMU]
- [Issue Priority] More Americans name climate change and the environment as the single “most important issue” to them than any other issue aside from inflation/prices, health care, and the economy/jobs [The Economist + YouGov]
Yale Program on Climate Change Communication (YPCCC) + George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication (GMU 4C)
Americans’ climate attitudes are continuing to grow more polarized, but bipartisan majorities support clean energy and conservation efforts (Executive Summary, Full Report)
The latest edition of the YPCCC and GMU 4C’s long-running “Climate Change in the American Mind” study draws on findings from a national survey conducted in December. The full report, linked above, is well worth reading for anyone interested in public opinion about climate change and clean energy.
Overall, they find that partisan polarization around climate change continued to intensify in 2022.
Just over half of voters (52%) believe that global warming should be a “high” or “very high” priority for the president and Congress, reflecting little change since YPCCC/GMU 4C previously asked this question in April 2022 (50%).
Beneath the surface, however, Democratic and Republican partisans continue to drift further apart in their climate attitudes:
- Support for global warming as a priority increased among Democrats between April and December, with growing majorities of both liberal Democrats (90%, up from 88% in April) and non-liberal Democrats (74%, up from 68%) saying that the issue should be a “high” or “very high” priority
- Support for global warming as a priority decreased among Republicans between April and December, with declining percentages of conservative Republicans (10%, down from 12% in April) and non-conservative Republicans (33%, down from 38%) saying that the issue should be a “high” or “very high” priority
Confirming what we’ve seen in other public polling, the YPCCC and GMU4C also find that climate change was a major issue for Democratic voters in the midterms. The clear majority of Democrats (64%) say that global warming was important for them in deciding how to vote, compared to just 14% of Republicans.
On the issue of clean energy, the survey finds that a durable, cross-partisan majority of voters want to see the federal government boost clean energy. Nearly two-thirds of voters (65%, up slightly from 61% in April) say that developing sources of clean energy should be a “high” or “very high” priority for the president and Congress, including 95% of liberal Democrats, more than four in five non-liberal Democrats (82%), and the majority of non-conservative Republicans (52%).
However, only 28% of conservative Republicans say that clean energy should be a “high” or “very high” priority, reflecting the stark ideological divide within the Republican electorate on climate and clean energy issues.
When it comes to specific energy proposals, voters – including most Republicans – support a variety of measures to incentivize clean energy and energy efficiency. Each of the following policies earns broad, bipartisan support:
- Funding more research into renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power (79% support, including 59% of Republicans)
- Providing federal funding to make residential buildings in low-income communities more energy efficient (78% support, including 56% of Republicans)
- Providing tax incentives or rebates to homeowners, landlords, and business to purchase appliances that don’t use fossil fuels (76% support, including 54% of Republicans)
- Providing tax rebates for people who purchase energy-efficient vehicles or solar panels (74% support, including 51% of Republicans)
Proposals to completely eliminate fossil fuels from the economy, energy supply, or roads, meanwhile, are relatively more polarizing – though “100% clean” goals earn majority support:
- 66% support transitioning the U.S. economy from fossil fuels to 100% clean energy by 2050, including 93% of Democrats but just 35% of Republicans
- 62% support requiring electric utilities to produce 100% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2035, including 88% of Democrats bust just 32% of Republicans
- 44% support requiring that all new cars, trucks, and SUVs sold in the U.S. are electric vehicles by 2030, including 71% of Democrats but just 13% of Republicans
In terms of policies for energy production, the YPCCC and GMU 4C find that voters overwhelmingly support the expansion of clean energy. There remains a clear appetite for an “all-of-the-above” energy approach that unfortunately includes fossil fuels as well, however, as Republican support for fossil fuel extraction is still very high:
- 79% support generating renewable energy like solar and wind on public land in the U.S., including large majorities of both Democrats (94%) and Republicans (63%)
- 66% support building solar farms in the U.S., including more than four in five Democrats (84%) and 45% of Republicans
- 65% support building wind farms in the U.S., including more than four in five Democrats (83%) and 45% of Republicans
- 59% support expanding offshore drilling for oil and natural gas off the U.S. coast, including more than four in five Republicans (83%) but just 39% of Democrats
- 56% support drilling and mining for fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas on public land in the U.S., including more than four in five Republicans (82%) but just 35% of Democrats
We’ve seen similar trends from other public pollsters like Pew, who have also found that Republicans tend to favor both clean and dirty energy sources and are accordingly resistant to phasing out fossil fuels even as they support clean energy expansion.
Of all the issues covered in the YPCCC/GMU 4C survey, conservation is the topic area that elicits the most bipartisan agreement:
- 84% support providing federal funding to help farmers better protect and restore soil so that it absorbs and stores more carbon, including majorities of both Democrats (95%) and Republicans (72%)
- 78% support creating a jobs program that would hire unemployed coal workers to safely close down old coal mines, including majorities of both Democrats (96%) and Republicans (56%)
- 78% support creating a jobs program that would hire unemployed oil and gas workers to safely close down thousands of abandoned oil and gas wells, including majorities of both Democrats (94%) and Republicans (58%)
The survey also assessed voters’ awareness and support for the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), confirming the common finding that voters know very little about the IRA but widely support it when they learn basic information.
The YPCCC and GMU 4C find that just over four in ten voters (43%) have heard at least “some” about the IRA, including only 13% who have heard “a lot” about it. After reading a description of the bill that largely focuses on its climate and clean energy components, roughly two-thirds (68%) say they support the IRA.
Despite this broad support for the legislation, however, voters clearly need to hear more about how the IRA could positively impact their own lives. Only about one in five (22%) expect that the IRA will help them personally, while one in five (20%) also say that they believe the IRA will hurt them personally and the plurality of voters (42%) expect that it won’t make much difference in their lives.
There is little sign of the “gas stove debate” breaking through yet, as voters of all political affiliations say that they like both electric stoves and gas stoves (Topline)
The latest national poll from Navigator touches briefly on the “gas stove debate” by asking voters how they feel generally about electric stoves and gas stoves.
Overall, Navigator finds that voters feel marginally more positively about electric stoves (74% favorable / 18% unfavorable) than gas stoves (69% favorable / 22% unfavorable).
And while attitudes about different kinds of cooktops line up to some degree with voters’ political affiliations, partisans don’t seem to be taking their cues from the debate playing out on cable news and social media about gas stoves – at least not yet.
Republican voters have more favorable attitudes about gas stoves (81% favorable / 15% unfavorable) than Democrats do, but Democrats still feel more positively than negatively about gas stoves by a two-to-one margin (60% favorable / 28% unfavorable).
There’s also little sign of backlash from right-wing voters toward electric stoves, as Democrats (75% favorable / 14% unfavorable) and Republicans (74% favorable / 21% unfavorable) both have overwhelmingly positive opinions of electric cooktops.
Americans are split on the idea of banning gas in new construction (Article)
New data from Morning Consult further indicates that the “gas stove debate” hasn’t done much to influence public opinion so far, as Americans’ attitudes about local bans on gas in new construction have held steady since Morning Consult previously asked about the topic in 2021. Morning Consult additionally finds that partisanship makes no noticeable difference in Americans’ self-reported choices of stoves in their own homes.
Pulling from the article linked above:
“Among the general public, 42% said they would support a ban on the use of natural gas in new construction in their communities, including 56% of Democrats and 28% of Republicans. Overall, 39% of U.S. adults would oppose such a ban, including 56% of Republicans and 26% of Democrats. The figures were essentially unchanged from a 2021 Morning Consult survey.
Similarly, 55% currently use electric stovetops, and 43% use gas stoves — with virtually no partisan differences on the question, consistent with findings in 2021.
Within the next 10 years, 2 in 3 respondents said they are at least somewhat likely to consider purchasing an electric stovetop, while half and roughly a third, respectively, said the same of gas and induction stovetops.”
When gas stove owners are presented with information about the possible link between gas stoves and childhood asthma, however, Democratic gas stove owners are more likely to express interest in replacing their gas-powered unit than Republican gas stove owners.
The survey informed respondents of a study estimating that one in eight cases of asthma in children is caused by gas stove pollution. Following this information, gas stove owners were split on whether or not it made them interested in replacing their gas-powered stove (46% interested / 44% not interested). Democrats were 22 points more likely to express interest in replacing their stove (59%) than Republicans (37%).
Data for Progress
Most Americans say they’re more likely to purchase an electric stove than a gas stove, and two-thirds support regulating the emissions from gas-burning stoves after reading about the harmful indoor pollution that they create (Article, Topline)
As in the Morning Consult survey, Data for Progress finds that the public already prefers electric stoves to gas stoves.
Most Americans (54%) say that they would most likely purchase an electric stove if they were in the market for a new cooktop or range in the next 10 years, including majorities of both Democrats (57%) and Republicans (53%). Meanwhile, 36% of Americans say that they would purchase a gas stove and 9% would choose an induction cooktop.
And after reading about a Stanford University study on the pollution from gas stoves, Americans tilt further in favor of electric stoves and only about one-quarter remain more interested in gas-powered options (59% electric / 27% gas / 13% induction). Additionally, roughly two-thirds of voters (67% support / 25% oppose) support granting the Consumer Product Safety Commission the authority to regulate safe levels of emissions for gas-burning stoves after they read about the Stanford study.
The specific information about the study that was presented to survey respondents reads as follows: “A recent Stanford University study found that emissions from gas-burning stoves create more hazardous indoor air quality conditions and contain more greenhouse gasses than previously thought. Exposure to these emissions, which contain methane and nitrogen dioxide, has been shown to increase risk of asthma and other respiratory diseases, particularly in children.”
While this survey shows that there is a way to persuasively demonstrate the dangers of gas stoves to the general public, that doesn’t mean that the “gas stove debate” is a discourse that environmental advocates need or want to enter into.
After all, the debate as it’s being manufactured in the right-wing media centers on a made-up plan to take away people’s gas stoves. And, as the Morning Consult polling this week shows, outright bans on residential gas in new construction are not particularly popular. Americans tend to dislike “bans” in general, and public polling this week shows that plenty of other policies to reduce indoor gas pollution – including regulations on gas stove emissions, per the Data for Progress polling, and incentives to purchase electric appliances, per the YPCCC/GMU 4C survey – attract widespread support.
Given these dynamics, environmental advocates are better off focusing their communications on the wide range of climate and clean energy policies that Americans are willing to get behind instead of amplifying a debate around a fictional and far more controversial proposal.