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Politics & Global Warming, March 2021


Executive Summary

Drawing on a nationally representative survey (n = 1,037; including 922 registered voters), this report describes how registered voters view a variety of climate and energy policies. The survey was fielded from March 18 – 29, 2021. This report focuses on U.S. domestic policy, building on our report released in April 2021 that explored the politics of public support for international climate action. This executive summary presents the results from all registered voters, while the report goes further by breaking the results down by political party and ideology.

Global Warming and Clean Energy as Government Priorities

  • 52% of registered voters say global warming should be a high or very high priority for the president and Congress.
  • 60% of registered voters say developing sources of clean energy should be a high or very high priority for the president and Congress.

Global Warming and Energy Policies

Majorities of registered voters support a range of policies to reduce carbon pollution and promote clean energy. These include:

  • 78% support providing tax rebates to people who purchase energy-efficient vehicles or solar panels.
  • 76% support funding more research into renewable energy sources.
  • 72% support regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant.
  • 67% support transitioning the U.S. economy (including electric utilities, transportation, buildings, and industry) from fossil fuels to 100% clean energy by 2050.
  • 65% support setting strict carbon dioxide emission limits on existing coal-fired power plants.
  • 63% support requiring fossil fuel companies to pay a tax on the carbon pollution they produce, and using that revenue to reduce other taxes (such as the federal income tax) by an equal amount (i.e., a revenue-neutral carbon tax).
  • 61% support requiring electric utilities to produce 100% of their electricity from renewable energy sources by the year 2035.

Registered voters across the political spectrum also support a range of conservation and restoration policies, including:

  • 82% support re-establishing the Civilian Conservation Corps, which would employ workers to protect natural ecosystems, plant trees in rural and urban areas, and restore the soil on farmlands.
  • 81% support creating a jobs program that would hire unemployed coal workers to safely close down old coal mines and restore the natural landscape.
  • 80% support creating a jobs program that would hire unemployed oil and gas workers to safely close down thousands of abandoned oil and gas wells, which are a source of water and methane pollution.
  • 74% support setting aside 30% of America’s lands and waters for conservation by 2030.
  • 65% support increasing federal funding to low-income communities and communities of color who are disproportionally harmed by air and water pollution.

Declaring Climate Change a National Emergency

  • 56% of registered voters support a U.S. president declaring global warming a national emergency if Congress does not act.

Energy Production as an Economic Issue

  • 49% of registered voters say that policies to promote clean energy will improve economic growth and create jobs, while 35% say these policies will reduce growth and cost jobs.
  • 58% of registered voters say that increasing production of clean energy in the U.S. will produce more new jobs than will increasing fossil fuel production.

Support for Infrastructure Investments

  • 67% of registered voters support a major government investment in the nation’s infrastructure.

Acting on Global Warming

  • 47% of registered voters say actions taken by governments and individuals are about equally important for responding to global warming, while 21% say actions taken by governments are most important and seven percent say actions taken by individuals are most important.
  • 72% of registered voters say corporations and industry should do more to address global warming.
  • Half or more of registered voters say citizens (65%), the U.S. Congress (63%), the Republican Party (61%), their local government officials (59%), their governor (56%), the Democratic Party (54%), they themselves (54%), the media (52%), and President Biden (50%) should do more to address global warming.

Collective Efficacy

  • About half of registered voters are at least “moderately confident” that people like them, working together, can affect what their local government (53%), local businesses (51%), their state government (49%), and the federal government (47%) do about global warming.

Local and State Government Action on Global Warming

  • 49% of registered voters say their local government should prioritize both climate mitigation and adaptation about equally, while one in four (23%) say the main priority should be mitigation, and nine percent say it should be adaptation.
  • Relatively few registered voters (27%) are moderately or more confident that their state and local government can help protect their local community from the impacts of global warming.
  • About half or more of registered voters say their state and local governments should place a high priority on protecting public water supplies (57%), people’s health (53%), and agriculture (49%) from the effects of global warming over the next 10 years.
  • Majorities of registered voters support climate-friendly policies for their local community, including increasing the availability of public transportation in their county (75%), providing funding to help homeowners make energy-efficient improvements to their homes (74%), constructing bike paths and installing bike lanes on city streets (74%), and paying 5% more on their monthly utility bill to get electricity from renewable energy sources (52%).