EPC Resource Library / Weekly Roundups

Environmental Polling Roundup – June 7, 2024





Most Americans say that climate change will be a factor in their vote this year, as the clear majority want a pro-environment and pro-climate president. Nearly two-thirds (65%) say that climate change policy will be either “the single most important factor” in their vote for president this year (10%) or an otherwise “important factor” (50%).

The priority that Americans place on climate change tends to be understated in polls that only ask about people’s “most important issue,” as the economy and inflation have overshadowed every other issue on this type of question for years now. The reality is that very few people are single-issue voters but most care about a broad range of issue areas, including climate change. 

Polls have also been very consistent in showing that most Americans want a pro-environment and pro-climate president, as AP-NORC and EPIC find here. 

Half or more say that is “extremely” or “very” important that the next president does each of the following:

Meanwhile, only about one-third (34%) say that it’s “extremely” or “very important” for the next president to protect and expand U.S. fossil fuel development.

An overwhelming and rising majority of Americans recognize that climate change is happening. AP-NORC and EPIC find that nearly four in five Americans (78%) recognize that climate change is happening, which is the highest percentage that they’ve recorded in eight years of tracking this question.

There’s been a fairly consistent upward trend in climate awareness by all partisan groups in their tracking, including a recent uptick among younger Republicans in particular. Since 2021, AP-NORC and EPIC have measured a five-point increase in recognition of climate change among Republicans overall (62%, up from 57%) and a nine-point increase in recognition of climate change among Republicans aged 18-45 (69%, up from 60%).

Extreme weather continues to play an important role in shaping people’s climate beliefs. Half of Americans (51%) say that recent extreme weather events like hurricanes, droughts, floods, unusual heat, or wildfires have had “a great deal” or “a lot” of influence in their views about climate change. 

An additional 45% say that their own personal observations of weather in their area have had “a great deal” or “a lot” of influence. Americans are relatively less likely to say that they’ve been influenced by arguments that support the existence of climate change (38%), by news coverage of climate issues (33%), or by arguments that question the existence of climate change (21%).

One of the reasons that extreme weather weighs so heavily in the public’s climate beliefs is that it personally touches the vast majority of Americans. Around three-quarters (74%) say that their community has experienced unusually hot or cold days in the past 12 months, and 60% of those who have been affected by unusual temperatures believe that climate change was a “major factor” behind it.

Local clean energy projects remain much more popular than the conventional wisdom says. While vocal opponents of local clean energy projects tend to grab the most attention, polls consistently show that most Americans are perfectly comfortable with these kinds of projects in their areas. Here, AP-NORC and EPIC find that majorities would support a solar panel field (64%) or wind turbines (60%) in their community. 

Intensity is also on the side of those who support local clean energy projects, with strong supporters of solar panel fields outnumbering strong opponents by a 36%-6% margin and strong supporters of wind turbines outnumbering strong opponents by a 31%-8% margin.

Americans back a variety of methods to reduce climate pollution, including pollution standards and a carbon tax. AP-NORC and EPIC gauged support for a wide range of energy policies that the country could pursue, with pro-climate policies rising to the top:

Costs break both ways in the debate over EVs, as Americans are eager to save money on gas but worry about the upfront costs of EVs. As we consistently see in polls on the topic, AP-NORC and EPIC find that the top rationales for and against purchasing EVs both center on costs.

On the plus side, Americans are more likely to say that saving money on gas is a “major reason” why they would purchase an electric vehicle (41%) than any other rationale. Conversely, most (59%) say that the cost of new electric vehicles is a “major reason” why they would not purchase an electric vehicle.  

Most Americans recognize climate change as a health issue. Nearly two-thirds (65%) agree that “climate change is a threat to human health,” and two in five (40%) believe that climate change presents a “large” or “moderate” risk to their own personal health and well-being.

Americans are concerned that this summer’s weather will be as extreme as last year’s, or worse. Most Americans (63%) expect this summer to either be on par with last summer (36%) or even worse (37%) in terms of weather-related issues – even after hearing that 2023 was the warmest year on record for the planet.

This is clearly a source of anxiety for Americans heading into the warmer months, with most (53%) saying that they are concerned about themselves or someone in their family being impacted by extreme weather this summer.

As they found in the Nevada data that they released last week, newly released polling by Climate Power in Georgia and North Carolina shows how messaging on climate change and clean energy shifts the presidential race in President Biden’s favor.

Neither Biden’s nor Trump’s record on these issues is well-known but voters much prefer Biden’s approach to climate and the environment over Trump’s, creating lots of opportunity for Biden and his allies to shift the race by educating voters about this contrast.

Pulling some of the “Key Takeaways” from Climate Power’s Georgia polling deck, which echo what we’ve seen in other battleground polling from Climate Power and other groups:

Messaging that contrasts Biden’s climate and clean energy accomplishments with Trump’s record results in a notable 7-point vote shift towards Biden. The combination of positive-Biden and negative-Trump messaging is necessary to move targeted voters. We should cover Biden’s accomplishments and Trump’s intentionally adversarial and alarming record on the environment.

Georgia voters have no clear sense of what Biden has done to address climate change and promote clean energy, but messages about Biden’s clean energy achievements boost voters’ belief that Biden has taken strong action and young voters’ belief that he is listening to younger Americans.

Voters do not realize the depth of harm that Trump caused during his presidency and do not adequately perceive the serious threat that his reelection poses to the environment and average Americans. They characterize Donald Trump’s approach to climate and clean energy as one of benign neglect, rather than active hostility.

We need to amplify messaging about Biden’s achievements in increasing clean energy and reducing pollution. The significant dollar amounts being invested in clean energy in Georgia are impressive, but the lack of evidence of real-world impacts in their communities generates skepticism among Georgia voters.

The most effective case for Biden’s climate and clean energy achievements focuses on affordability, job growth, and protecting public health from air and water pollution. It will be critical to showcase the direct and ongoing impacts on communities throughout the state. Given the priority voters place on energy costs, it is important to focus on how Biden’s efforts will reduce energy costs for consumers.

It is imperative to correct the record about Trump’s anti-environment agenda to raise the threat level around his potential reelection. Voters are surprised to learn the extent of Trump’s deliberate efforts to thwart or roll back environmental protections and the harmful impact his calculated actions had on Georgia’s people, environment, and economy.
The case against Trump is compelling and effective, particularly the messages that highlight his close ties to corporate polluters that risk the safety of Georgia’s water supply and harm vulnerable communities.

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