EPC Resource Library / Weekly Roundups

Environmental Polling Roundup – May 31, 2024





Most voters believe that oil and gas companies’ climate pollution warrants legal action. Policies that hold oil and gas companies more accountable for their pollution have become very popular in recent years, as other recent polling on this topic illustrates.

In this new poll, Data for Progress finds that three-fifths of voters (62%) agree that “oil and gas companies should be held legally accountable for their contributions to climate change, including their impacts on extreme weather events and public health.” 

This sentiment is shared by more than four in five Democrats (84%), the majority of independents (59%), and two in five Republicans (40%).

Voters care most about fossil fuel companies being held accountable for endangering the public, with monetary damages from climate disasters a secondary concern. When voters who support legal accountability for the industry’s climate pollution are asked which specific kinds of negative consequences the industry should be held responsible for, endangering the public is at the top of their list:

Voters aren’t entirely convinced that climate polluters should be held responsible for deaths from climate disasters, but lean towards supporting the idea. By a 10-point margin (49% support / 39% oppose), more voters support than oppose the idea of filing criminal charges against oil and gas companies for deaths caused by climate change when provided with the following background:

“While numerous cities and states have already filed civil lawsuits against oil and gas companies to hold them legally accountable for their contributions to climate change, some legal groups have proposed criminal prosecutions against these companies. 

They argue that the criminal offense of reckless or negligent homicide – which is legally defined as causing a death through reckless or negligent conduct – is an appropriate charge for oil and gas companies when extreme weather events caused by climate change kill people.”

The overwhelming majority of Democrats agree that oil and gas companies should be held legally responsible for deaths from climate disasters (68% support / 20% oppose), while independents are split on the idea (42% support / 41% oppose) and most Republicans oppose it (32% support / 57% oppose).

In this round-up of their recent polling on gas prices, fossil fuel accountability, and the presidential race, Climate Power makes a compelling case that Democrats can effectively counter attacks over gas prices by leaning into voters’ anger at Big Oil and the politicians who do the industry’s bidding. 

Pulling from their memo, with emphasis added in bold:

“Research shows that voters’ blame for high gas prices remains fluid. According to a recent Climate Power and Hart Research survey among 2024 likely voters:

In a September 2023 poll conducted by Climate Power, the League of Conservation Voters Victory Fund, and Hart Research, voters found Republicans taking Big Oil donations and refusing to hold oil and gas companies accountable as the most concerning message about GOP positions on energy and the environment

As we head into the summer driving season, polling reflects an opportunity for Democrats to proactively defend themselves from Republican attacks on predictable, seasonal rising prices.

Who voters hold responsible for high prices is not yet solidified, and they blame the oil and gas industry more than any other entity for higher gas prices. 

Voters believe Big Oil influences federal leaders, and they do not like that Republicans take donations from the oil and gas industry. Instead, they favor President Biden’s position of holding Big Oil accountable for its price-gouging and investment in affordable, American-made clean energy.

Voters across party lines support the Community Mental Wellness and Resilience Act after learning about it. Nearly seven in ten voters (69% support / 24% oppose) say that they support the legislation when provided with the following description:

“Lawmakers have proposed the Community Mental Wellness and Resilience Act to strengthen mental health services for climate anxiety. 

The legislation would establish a $36 million grant program through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to provide funding to local community-based mental wellness and resilience programs. This funding would be used to address mental health issues arising from impacts from climate change, including extreme weather events, natural disasters, and rising temperatures.”

Support for the bill spans partisan lines, with nearly nine in ten Democrats (88%), two-thirds of independents (67%), and around half of Republicans (52%) in favor of it.

Climate anxiety is highly relatable, with most voters saying that climate change negatively impacts their plans for the future. The majority of voters (55%) say that their feelings about climate change have some kind of negative impact on their planning for the future. 

Voters are especially likely to believe that climate change will impact their health, where they live, and their finances. Majorities agree that climate change will impact their health and where they live, while nearly half believe that it will affect their finances:

Younger voters in particular expect that their lives will be impacted by climate change. Nearly two-thirds of voters under 45 say that climate change will impact their health (65%) and where they live (64%), and most voters under 45 (54%) believe that it will impact their finances as well.

In a pattern that we also see across the country, voters in Nevada do not grasp how much Biden and Trump differ in their approaches to climate change and clean energy – both because they aren’t aware of Biden’s climate and clean energy accomplishments and because they don’t know about or recall Trump’s opposition to climate action.

Accordingly, messaging on climate change and clean energy can have a significant impact on Nevadans’ vote choices and their views of the candidates. 

Pulling some of the “Key Takeaways” from Climate Power’s deck, which includes findings from focus groups as well as a statewide poll:

Biden’s successful record on climate and clean energy and Trump’s disastrous record are not fully known in Nevada. The impact of our positive messaging and credibility of our negative messaging is generally well-received, as voters are already predisposed to believing that Trump puts profits over people, it’s just a matter of reminding them.

Climate and clean energy contrast messaging is both persuasive and a motivating factor in Nevada. Contrast messaging on climate and clean energy moves the votes toward Biden (+4 pp) and boosts motivation among key Democratic groups.

Messaging on clean energy and the environment also boosts perception that Biden is better on the economy and is standing up for the greater good (while Trump is not). This improvement is especially strong with non-partisan (+5 greater good, +5 economy) and Black voters (+7 greater good, +4 economy).

Contrast messaging about Biden and Trump is most effective in moving voters, but if we can only do one, Biden positives are the priority. 

Regression analysis shows that messages that can drive the following three frames are most likely to boost Biden’s vote share:

Most effective pro-Biden message: Biden took on Big Oil lobbyists and broke gridlock in Congress to pass the largest investment in clean energy jobs and climate action in history. Messaging on health and costs also resonates with many groups while Environmental Justice messaging is potent with Black, Latino, and Younger voters.

Voters view Trump as a business-first candidate, which has both positive and negative connotations. We need to define him as a profit-first candidate willing to sell out our health, climate, and clean energy progress to benefit himself and his Big Oil cronies.

Effective messaging on Trump in Nevada should highlight three categories of voter concerns:

Related Resources