Poll: Public Support For State “Climate Change” Policies Declines

This comes from the University Of Michigan’s Center For Local, State, and Urban Policy

The first decade of the 2000s was a period of active and largely unanticipated state engagement in the development of policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This triggered substantial social science literature that explored the drivers behind climate policy adoption. These included state reactions to more localized early effects of a changing climate, anticipated co-benefits from either improving energy efficiency or developing locally-generated renewable sources, and positioning themselves for favored status in any subsequent federal policy regime. But this pattern of policy adoption and diffusion has slowed and, in some respects, reversed in recent years. Despite the absence of far-reaching federal legislation, a number of federal initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in recent years have tended to marginalize state policy initiative and expansion.

This report tracks the evolution of public opinion on the question of state government involvement in climate change over a five-year period, from Fall 2008 to Fall 2013. It concludes that there has been some significant decline in public support for at least some of the policies that have been asked about by National Surveys on Energy and Environment (NSEE) during this period. The drop-off has been most noticeable since the Fall 2008 survey, which has also surfaced as a high-water mark for public concern about climate change. Our findings note a significant drop in public concern right after that period, at least in cases where we asked the identical question in subsequent surveys, including a further trend downward in surveys conducted during the spring and fall of 2013. Declining public concern may be a contributing factor to the stalled pace of policy development at the state level, though it also indicates variation depending upon question wording and the policy instrument under consideration. Subsequent reports will examine these issues in greater detail and will also provide insight into whether geographic regions differ from one another, or whether citizens differ on the basis of whether they live in states that have (or have not) adopted particular policies.

When we look move past the abstract and into the poll itself, there are 7 key findings

  1. Americans have generally become more divided in their views on the proper role of state governments in addressing global warming during the past five years.
  2. One-half (50%) of Americans now believe that it is their state’s job to address global warming if the federal government fails to do so, down from 70% maintaining this view in 2008. Strong agreement with this proposition declined to 19% in Fall 2013 from 41% in Fall 2008.
  3. Opinion has moderated on whether Americans believe that their respective states should not adopt climate mitigation policies unless neighboring states adopt similar policies. Strong expressions of agreement and disagreement have both declined significantly since Fall 2008, alongside growth in more moderate positions.
  4. Opposition to states increasing fossil fuel taxes as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions increased by 14 percentage points between Fall 2008 and Fall 2013. Seventy-one percent of Americans oppose this option overall in Fall 2013, with 55% of these respondents strongly opposing it, and only 5% of overall respondents strongly supporting it.
  5. Overall support for states increasing gasoline taxes as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions has dropped from an already low level of 23% in 2008 to 17% in 2013, with only 6% expressing strong support for this approach in Fall 2013.
  6. Only one-third (32%) of Americans support state development of a cap-and-trade system to reduce greenhouse gases in Fall 2013, down from 55% five years earlier. This approach is now opposed at the state level by a 45-to-32% margin.
  7. A large majority of Americans continue to support requirements for a portion of electricity in a state to be produced by renewable energy sources, with 79% overall in favor of this option in Fall 2013. However, there has been some decline in the strength of this support from Fall 2008, when 59% of respondents expressed strong support, compared to 46% in Fall 2013

Overall, most support is down, particularly when it comes to “carbon” permits and gas taxes. The only bright spot is support for “renewables”, but even that is down when it comes to strength of support.

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