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National Poll Shows Broad Support for Water Solutions

Image of a $100 bill submerged in water to express support of stimulus funding for water programs | Climate Nexus Polls

Poll: Voters want more spending on water solutions

More than 3 in 4 voters support federal stimulus funding for water access,
affordability and climate-resilience programs

Aug. 25, 2020 (WASHINGTON DC) — A new poll released today finds there is very strong public support for water programs as part of future federal stimulus packages. The poll — from the Water Hub at Climate Nexus, Climate Nexus Polling, the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication — also found overwhelming support for water investments that reduce heat and pollution, save money and energy, and increase climate resilience. 

“We know from past polls that clean water is something Americans care a great deal about, and that droughts, flooding and pollution are real concerns,” said Dr. Edward Maibach, director of George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change Communication. “So it makes sense that voters would support water infrastructure investments — especially during a pandemic that has reminded us how essential safe water is to public health.”

A June poll from the same partners found that 77% of voters nationwide consider pollution of rivers, lakes and streams a serious problem in their local areas. This August poll found that 34% of voters say pollution of rivers, lakes and aquifers is the biggest threat to safe drinking water in their community, followed by outdated infrastructure (19%), lead pipes (17%),  lack of strong environmental and health regulations (12%), and poor enforcement (12%). 

“From record-breaking heat to hurricanes, flooding, and drought, water and weather are primary ways communities are experiencing climate change,” said Dr. Anthony Leiserowitz, Director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. “Voters want their leaders to invest in improving the nation’s water systems, which will improve our health, create good jobs, and better prepare communities for the impacts of climate change.” 

One regulatory change that has been in the news a lot lately is the Trump administration’s weakening of the Clean Water Act, which removed protections for small streams and waterways. A majority (56%) of voters say they believe this change will have a negative impact on drinking water quality. A plurality (43%) believe it will negatively impact economic growth. 

When asked about their priorities, 76% of voters say it is more important to protect water quality than prioritize economic growth. When asked how they think updating our nation’s water infrastructure will impact the U.S. economy, 57% say they believe it would have a positive impact, while just 9% think it will have a negative impact. 

Voters signal strong support for including water policies in future stimulus packages, 

from funding small water systems (84%), to protecting forests, rivers and wetlands (83%), extending water service to communities that currently lack access (82%), and providing assistance to families and businesses impacted by the pandemic (79%).  

A majority (63%) of voters say they support a “nationwide pause on water shutoffs to homes and businesses that are behind on their water bill payments during the pandemic.” 

Nearly two-thirds of voters (65%) say the federal government should increase spending on water infrastructure now. Voters indicate strong support for water investments that also slow climate change and boost resilience. Overwhelming majorities say it is important for water investments to also reduce urban heat and air pollution (91%), increase climate resilience (88%), save consumers money (84%) and slow climate change by saving energy or reducing emissions (83%).

For more detail on the poll results, please see the toplines. Crosstabs are available by request to Kimiko Martinez at [email protected]

Methodology: Climate Nexus Polling, in partnership with the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication, conducted a representative survey for the Water Hub at Climate Nexus on August 5-6, 2020 of 1,984 registered voters in the United States. The margin of error for this survey is +/- 2.3% at the 95% confidence level.