- Support for specific climate change policies ranges from 59% to 89%
- Bare majorities prioritize environment over economic concerns
- Republicans favor several climate change policies
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans widely favor each of six proposals designed to limit greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. Support ranges from 59% in favor of spending federal money for building more electric vehicle charging stations in the U.S. up to 89% for providing tax credits to Americans who install clean energy systems in their homes.
Gallup's annual environment poll gauged public support for six proposals that have been advanced as part of the climate change policy agenda. Americans are most supportive of tax credits or tax incentives designed to promote the use of clean energy. They are less supportive of stricter government standards or limits on emissions and policies that promote the use of electric vehicles.
President Joe Biden made climate change policies a major part of the roughly $2 trillion social spending bill he proposed last year. The bill stalled in the Senate due to concerns about the effect on the budget deficit and economy more broadly, though it is possible some parts of it could still be passed as separate legislation. A separate infrastructure bill that passed last year with bipartisan support did include some provisions designed to increase the use of clean energy and electric vehicles.
The survey addressed the political controversy over climate change policies by asking respondents to weigh the possible economic risk of passing legislation to limit greenhouse gas emissions against the risk to the environment of not passing it. In contrast to the broad support found for the individual items, a smaller 53% say they are more concerned about the risk to the environment of not passing such proposals, while 43% are more concerned about the potential harm to the economy and deficit if they are passed.
A broader question in the survey that asks about prioritizing environmental protection versus economic growth yields similar results: 53% say protecting the environment is the greater priority, and 42% say economic growth is.
Gallup has asked about this environment versus economy tradeoff frequently since 1984. Americans have almost always prioritized the environment, but in weaker economic times, they have been less likely to do so. Between 2009 and 2013, when the U.S. was emerging from the Great Recession, Americans were more likely to say economic growth should be the greater priority. The lone exception during this time came in May 2010, after a major oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Currently, with the U.S. facing high inflation, record gas prices and a relatively uneven recovery from the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic, the margin in favor of environmental protection is relatively small. Before the pandemic, in 2019 and early 2020, Americans prioritized environmental protection by roughly 2 to 1.
Partisans Diverge on Priorities; Republicans Back Some Proposals
Republicans and Democrats differ greatly as to whether they give more precedence to the environment or the economy. Two-thirds of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (68%) consider the risk of harm to the economy and expansion of the deficit from passing climate change laws greater than the risk to the environment from not passing those laws. Twenty-two percent of Democrats and Democratic leaners share that view. In contrast, 75% of Democrats and 29% of Republicans believe the risk to the environment outweighs the risk to the economy and budget deficit.
Democrats' and Republicans' opinions on the environmental protection versus economic growth question are similar -- 67% of Republicans and Republican leaners believe economic growth should have the greater priority, while 78% of Democrats and Democratic leaners say environmental protection should.
Consistent with their broader attitudes on the environment, Democrats overwhelmingly favor all six specific proposals to limit greenhouse gas emissions tested in the survey, with no less than 76% supporting each. Republicans, despite prioritizing the economy, do favor some of these. Majorities of Republicans are in favor of tax credits for people who install clean energy systems, tax incentives for businesses that use alternative energy, and higher fuel efficiency standards for vehicles. Republicans are about as likely to favor as oppose limits on methane gas emissions. They oppose both proposals for promoting electric vehicle use, with no more than 40% in favor of each.
Forty-three percent of Americans worry "a great deal" about climate change, and another 22% worry "a fair amount" about it. The public supports a range of policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that can produce climate change, but a comprehensive climate change bill has been an elusive goal for the Biden administration and congressional Democrats. Some of those policies theoretically could attract Republican support in Congress, given that solid majorities of Republican Party identifiers are in favor of using tax incentives to promote the use of clean energy, for example. Those policies may stand a better chance of passing in more limited legislation than as part of a more expensive package that deals with other issues.
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