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Environmental Polling Roundup – May 3, 2024





Voters continue to hold corporate polluters most responsible for climate change. When asked to choose which group is most responsible for causing climate change in the United States, voters assign the most blame to “big corporations generally” (30%) or to “oil and gas companies specifically” (28%).

Relatively fewer say that the government (18%) or individual consumers (13%) are most responsible.

Democrats are particularly likely to say that oil and gas companies specifically are most responsible (39%), while independents (36%) and Republicans (27%) assign the most blame to big corporations more generally.

Across the political spectrum, it strikes voters as common sense that the entities most responsible for climate pollution should be held most accountable for reducing their climate impacts and mitigating the damage. After reading that “a new report finds that just 122 entities worldwide are responsible for over 70 percent of global fossil fuel and cement emissions since the start of the Industrial Revolution” (based on the recent InfluenceMap Carbon Majors report), voters agree by an 81%-10% margin that “entities with the largest emissions should be most responsible for reducing their carbon footprint and climate impact.”

Support for this idea spans the political spectrum, with 87% of Democrats, 80% of independents, and 74% of Republicans all agreeing that the biggest climate polluters should be held most responsible for mitigating the damage. 

Two-thirds of voters support a “climate superfund” bill after being introduced to the idea. Upon learning that “some lawmakers are considering a ‘climate superfund’ bill that would require oil and gas companies to pay a share of the cost of

climate damages caused by their pollution,” voters back the idea by a greater than two-to-one margin (66% support / 28% oppose, including 37% who “strongly” support the idea).

The climate superfund proposal enjoys overwhelming support among Democrats (89% support / 6% oppose) and majority support among independents (57% support / 32% oppose), while splitting Republicans roughly equally (45% support / 48% oppose).

Ahead of the U.S. Senate hearing on Big Oil misinformation, most voters were aware of efforts from fossil fuel companies to mislead the public and delay climate action. Voters were most likely to say that they had heard about oil companies lying about their knowledge of pollution and lobbying against climate policies. Here are the percentages who said that they’d heard about each of various fossil fuel industry tactics:

Voters are particularly angered that Big Oil knowingly lied for decades about the pollution that they were causing. Of the industry tactics that Fossil Free Media and Data for Progress asked about, the following provoked the most widespread and intense anger in response:

The concept of a “carbon footprint” is well-known, but voters assume that it originated with environmental advocates and not the fossil fuel industry. The vast majority of voters (85%) say that they’ve heard about the idea of a “carbon footprint,” including 39% who say that they’ve heard “a lot” about it. 

However, few understand where the term came from. When asked who coined it, most voters mistakenly believe that the term originated with environmental organizations (39%) or climate activists (30%). Only 9% correctly recognize that the idea of a “carbon footprint” was initially promoted by fossil fuel companies.

When they learn that the idea of a “carbon footprint” was popularized by BP, voters can see through it as a tactic to shift responsibility away from corporate polluters.  After reading that “the oil and gas company British Petroleum (BP) coined and promoted the term ‘carbon footprint’ to promote the idea that climate change is not the fault of oil and gas companies, but that of individuals,” voters side far more with an argument that BP should be held responsible for trying to shift the blame for the problem than an argument that BP was genuinely trying to promote sustainability.

Below are the two competing arguments that respondents saw on this topic:

Voters of every political affiliation side more with the argument in favor of accountability for BP – including a 70%-19% margin among Democrats, a 58%-25% margin among independents, and a 51%-30% margin among Republicans.

Most Americans recognize that climate change is already happening. Three in five (60%) agree that “the impacts of climate change are being experienced now,” while 16% say that the impacts aren’t being experienced now “but will be felt in the future.”

Meanwhile, only a small percentage of Americans (13%) say that “there are no impacts of climate change” to be felt now or in the future.

“Climate change” and “extreme weather” increasingly mean the same thing to the public. We’ve seen perceptions about climate change and extreme weather align more over time, and the concept of extreme weather has accordingly become more polarized: Democrats are consistently more likely than Republicans to say that they’ve experienced extreme weather, even within the same parts of the country.

Here, the Walton Family Foundation and Morning Consult find only negligible differences in people’s concerns about “climate change” and “extreme weather.” Around seven in ten say that they’re concerned about both climate change (68%) and extreme weather (69%). Additionally, nearly identical percentages say that they are “very” concerned about climate change (36%) and extreme weather (34%). 

Extreme heat continues to be by far the most salient example of extreme weather for Americans. Out of several examples of extreme weather provided in the poll, extreme heat is the one type of event that the majority of Americans (54%) say that they’ve personally experienced at least “somewhat often” in the past year.

Extreme or excessive rain is the next-most experienced example (42%), followed by flooding (30%), poor air quality from wildfires (30%), and drought (27%).

Extreme heat was the most frequently experienced extreme weather event across every major region except for the Northeast, as Northeast residents were most likely to say that they’d experienced extreme or excessive rain.

Investments in climate resilience draw broad support across the political spectrum. The overwhelming majority of Americans (71%) say that they support further actions to increase climate resilience when provided with the following explanation of it: “The U.S. is in the middle of a long-term climate shift, which is

making each region of the country more vulnerable to extreme weather events. Climate resilience is the ability to cope with and recover from climate change events, such as droughts, flooding, extreme heat, and wildfires.”

Investments in climate resilience are popular across partisan lines, with large margins of support among Democrats (84%-6%), independents (66%-11%), and Republicans (65%-22%).

Arguments for nature-based climate solutions are persuasive. After being provided with several examples of nature-based solutions (including restoring wetlands and meadows to limit the spread of wildfires and absorb flood waters and building more green spaces to protect cities from extreme heat), the majority of Americans (55%) say that the country should be putting more emphasis on nature-based solutions while only 6% say that we should place less emphasis on nature-based solutions.

The poll also tested five different messages in support of nature-based solutions, with all testing as similarly persuasive on a 0-10 scale of convincingness (7.6 – 7.8 on average).

The Inflation Reduction Act is as popular as ever. Navigator finds record-high support for the Inflation Reduction Act after nearly two years of tracking attitudes about it using the following description: “As you may know, Biden and Democrats’ legislation that was passed by Congress is called the Inflation Reduction Act, which will give Medicare the power to negotiate lower drug prices, bring down health insurance premiums, and invest in clean energy like wind and solar power.”

In their latest poll, voters support the IRA by a 71%-20% margin based on this description. This is largely driven by sky-high support among Democrats (94% support), while Navigator finds that independents are also supporting the IRA by an increasingly wide margin (65% support / 17% oppose). 

Additionally, while previous Navigator polling showed that Republicans were closely split over the IRA, their latest poll finds that Republicans support it by a nine-point margin (48% support / 39% oppose).

However, voters are still hearing fairly little about the IRA. Only around half of Americans (49%) say that they’ve heard at least “some” about the Inflation Reduction Act, including only 13% who have heard “a lot” about it. Similarly, CBS News and YouGov found recently that only 14% of Americans have heard “a lot” about the Biden administration’s actions to address climate change.

Virtually all young Americans care at least some about climate change. Roughly half of young Americans aged 18-34 (49%) say that they are “very” or “extremely” concerned about climate change, which is the highest of any age group. 

Additionally, 18-34 year olds are far less likely than other age groups to dismiss the problem by saying that they are “not very” or “not at all concerned” about it (just 13%).

Close to two-thirds of Americans aged 18-34 (64%) also say that they’ve taken some form of action to address their concerns about climate change, which is considerably higher than average.

Democrats care the most intensely about climate change, but most Republicans also have some concerns about it. Around three-quarters of Democrats (74%) are “very” or “extremely” concerned about climate change, compared to just 29% of Republicans. 

However, around half of Republicans (52%) say that they are at least “somewhat” concerned about the issue.

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