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Environmental Polling Roundup – January 26, 2024





Yale’s Climate Opinion Maps have long been an invaluable tool for local climate advocacy. 

While most polling on climate attitudes is conducted at either the national or state levels, Yale’s Climate Opinion Maps utilize national polling data to estimate public attitudes down to smaller geographies – providing advocates with a unique set of data to hold policymakers at various levels of government accountable.

In addition to people’s climate beliefs, the tool provides estimates on a range of questions relating to climate impacts (e.g., whether people believe that they will be personally impacted by climate change), policy support (e.g., whether people support funding research into renewable energy sources), and specific actors (e.g., whether Congress, corporations, or a state’s governor should do more to address global warming).

In this newly released survey that was conducted by consulting and engineering firm WSP along with The Harris Poll last month, large majorities of Americans express concerns about the country’s aging electric grid.

Nearly as many Americans say that they’re concerned about the grid’s aging infrastructure and vulnerability to extreme weather as they are about the affordability of electricity, with most Americans saying that they are concerned about each of the following aspects of electricity in the U.S.:

Notably, Americans’ concerns about grid reliability are serious enough that the majority (61%) say that they would be willing to pay slightly more for electricity if it meant building a more reliable electric grid.

The survey additionally finds that improving grid reliability, along with more common messaging about improving health and creating jobs, ranks as a top rationale for transitioning to clean energy. Pulling from WSP’s report:

“Those on the front lines of spearheading the transition to renewable power may wonder about which messages to prioritize when communicating the potential benefits. Common wisdom is to lead with economic messages. 

While that is an important consideration and may resonate even more strongly in some geographies and with some demographic groups more than others…our survey suggests there may be solid receptivity to broader messages. 

Specifically, we found that, when asked what would influence their support for the transition to renewable energy, 

While it may seem surprising to see grid reliability messaging rank on par with health and economic messaging, investments in the electricity grid have long ranked among the most popular aspects of President Biden’s infrastructure and clean energy plans.

Owning the goal of grid reliability is also critically important to winning the debate on clean energy, as grid reliability is one of the public’s greatest lingering concerns about the clean energy transition. Pew found last year, for example, that Americans view the clean energy transition as a net positive for jobs and for air and water quality but a slight net negative for grid reliability and consumer costs.

The Economist and YouGov track Americans’ policy priorities on a weekly basis in their national surveys, and climate/environment has consistently ranked behind only inflation/prices, the economy, and health care over the past couple of years as Americans’ “most important issue.”

In the most recent wave of the survey, climate/environment trails only those issues and immigration when Americans are asked to identify the single issue that is most important to them:

Among Democrats, meanwhile, the Economist and YouGov data consistently shows that no issue is more important than climate and the environment. In the most recent survey, 17% of Democrats name climate change and the environment as their top issue. Inflation/prices (14%), health care (10%), and jobs and the economy (10%) are the only other issues named by 10% of Democrats or more.

As this data shows, there is no single dominant issue right now either for Americans overall or for Democrats in particular. It is clear, however, that climate change remains at the very top of Democrats’ lists of priorities for 2024 as the presidential content officially gets underway.

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