Americans Support Strong Climate & Energy Policies

Report Summary

This report finds that, despite the recent drops in public beliefs and concern about global warming, a large majority of Americans—regardless of political affiliation—support the passage of federal climate and energy policies. These include support for:

  • Funding more research on renewable energy, such as solar and wind power (85 percent)
  • Tax rebates for people buying fuel-efficient vehicles or solar panels (82 percent)
  • Establishing programs to teach Americans how to save energy (72 percent)
  • Regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant (71 percent)
  • School curricula to teach children about the causes, consequences, and potential solutions to global warming (70 percent)
  • Signing an international treaty that requires the U.S. to cut emissions of carbon dioxide 90% by the year 2050 (61 percent)
  • Establishing programs to teach Americans about global warming (60 percent).

Surprisingly, majorities of Republicans and Democrats support many of these policies, including renewable energy research, tax rebates, regulating carbon dioxide, and expanding offshore drilling for oil and natural gas. Further, majorities in both parties support returning revenues from a cap-and-trade system to American households to offset higher energy costs, perhaps opening a pathway for Congressional action.

Sixty percent of Americans, however, said that they have heard “nothing at all” about the cap and trade legislation currently being considered by Congress. Only twelve percent had heard “a lot.”

When cap and trade is explained, 58 percent support the policy, but this support drops to approximately 40 percent if household energy costs increase by $15 a month, or 50 cents a day. Sixty-six percent support cap and trade, however, if every household were to receive a yearly bonus of $180 to offset higher energy costs. In addition, 59 percent of Americans said they would likely spend the bonus on home energy efficiency improvements. Support increases to 71 percent if the bonus is doubled and spent entirely on energy efficiency improvements.

It may at first glance seem strange that public support for many of these policies remains high, despite the drops in public belief and concern about global warming reported last week. These results are from the same survey respondents, however, and it is important to remember that different people support these policies for different reasons. For example, some do so because they want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, others because they want to strengthen national security, or make the US less dependent on foreign sources of energy. Some of these policies have had solid majority support for years (e.g., renewable energy research), while for others (e.g., cap and trade) public opinion is still fluid and could go either way depending on how well advocates and opponents make their arguments.