Greenberg Quinlan Rosner polled 1000 Americans and got some encouraging results. Three in ten respondents chose stopping global warming by reducing dependence on fossil fuels as the most important threat, above student performance, business competitiveness and retirement security. Only reducing healthcare costs did better, pulling only three percentage points more support.
Majorities of Americans feel we’re lagging the world in developing “clean, alternative energy” (13% think we’ve fallen behind, 40% think we’re falling behind), and 64% of the public thinks we need to “immediately” move away from coal and oil to cleaner alternatives. Nearly 80% think that “shifting to new, alternative energy production will help America’s economy and create jobs.” About a third of the public backs that only somewhat, suggesting that they are probably willing to listen, but could still be convinced by naysayers. Six in ten feel “we must take action now or it will be too late to stop it,” while only a third think “We need to take action on global warming, but the effects will not occur for decades and we have some time before we must take action to stop it.” Only 12% back the second statement strongly, leaving 20% who could be convinced otherwise.
Telling people about the risk of greater government regulation actually increases support for immediate action, boosting support from 60% to 65%. Even when respondents were told that a carbon cap might weaken the economy, support for the proposal was close to 60%; support for tax credits for renewable energy was much stronger (70%), as was raising fuel economy standards (66%) and a 25% renewable power standard. (65%).
Remarkably, these proposals actually get the strongest support among Independent voters. This suggests that those issues could be more important in close elections than they might have seemed at first.
I have to say that these results are somewhat surprising and I remain skeptical. A global survey by Pew found that concern about global warming reaches its lowest levels in the US, at least among industrialized nations. In a national poll, people rated global warming relatively low as an issue (though energy policy and the environment in general also ranked highly).