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Texas Voters Support Climate Action

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Poll: Texas Voters Support Climate Action

Seven in 10 Houston voters have experienced flooding in their area in the last year
Two-thirds of Texas voters say developing renewables should be prioritized over natural gas
Joe Biden leads Democratic primary field in Texas

A new poll released today finds that Texas voters support a broad array of policies to address climate impacts and shift the state from fossil fuels to renewable energy, and they want their elected officials to support those policies as well. The poll comes ahead of the third Democratic primary debate in Houston, Texas, on September 12th, and in the middle of a month in which multiple events are elevating climate change in the national conversation, including two televised Democratic presidential candidate climate forums and the United Nations climate summit in New York.

In Houston, residents are experiencing several climate impacts, including extreme weather, more acutely than Texans in other parts of the state. Seven in 10 (70%) Houston-area voters, compared to roughly half (48%) of Texas voters overall, say their local area has been impacted by flooding in the last year. Those in the Houston region are also more likely than Texans overall to say they or someone in their family has experienced anxiety about extreme weather (46% in Houston vs. 35% in Texas overall), had to take a break from work because of extreme weather (41% in Houston vs. 26% in Texas overall), or experienced property damage as a result of extreme weather (36% in Houston vs. 24% in Texas overall). More than a quarter (28%) of Houston-area voters have had to leave their home temporarily or permanently as a result of extreme weather, and two-thirds (67%) are worried they’ll have to do so if Texas experiences another major hurricane.

Two-thirds (67%) of Texas voters say developing more renewable energy sources should be the most important priority for addressing Texas’s energy needs, significantly more than those who say building more natural gas (12%) or nuclear (7%) power plants should be the top priority. Additionally, seven in 10 (70%) Texas voters support transitioning to 100% renewable energy portfolio standard (RPS) in Texas, including nearly four in 10 (38%) who strongly support such a policy. Majorities of Texas voters believe a 100% RPS in Texas will benefit the state’s environment (76%), bring down electricity costs (64%), improve the economy (62%), and have a positive impact on rural and farming communities (60%). 

“Texans, especially those in Houston, are personally experiencing extreme weather due to climate change,” said​ Dr. ​Edward Maibach, Director of ​George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change Communication​. “They also support policies to accelerate the transition to clean renewable energy, and feel that reaching 100% clean energy will benefit Texas and Texans in a number of important ways.”

Nearly two-thirds (65%) of Texas voters support government action to address climate change, including more than one-third (36%) who strongly support it. Majorities are also more likely to support candidates who are in favor of specific policies to address climate change, such as extending government funding for renewable energy (74%), establishing a national renewable portfolio standard requiring 100% of electricity to be generated from renewable sources by 2050 (66%), setting stronger fuel efficiency standards for vehicles (66%), and requiring fossil fuel companies to pay a tax on their carbon pollution (64%).

Not only do Texans support climate action, but Democrats in the state say it will be key to their presidential vote. When asked to identify the two most important issues to their vote for president in 2020, Texas Democratic voters identify health care (36%), gun policy (29%), climate change (21%), and the economy and jobs (21%). The heightened importance of gun policy reflects the survey’s proximity to the August 3 mass shooting in El Paso, which dominated headlines in Texas and nationwide throughout the month. Eleven percent of voters overall in the state say climate change is one of the two most important issues to their vote for president in 2020.

“Climate change is a top priority among Democratic primary voters in Texas,” said ​Dr. Anthony Leiserowitz, Director of Yale University’s Program on Climate Change Communication. “And despite the state’s roots in the oil industry, most Texans support policies to accelerate the transition to clean, renewable energy.”

Joe Biden leads the field among Democratic and Democratic-leaning likely voters, with nearly one-quarter (24%) selecting him as their top choice, followed by Texan Beto O’Rourke (21%), then Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren (both at 12%) and Kamala Harris (7%). None of the other candidates receive more than 5%, and 9% say they prefer another candidate or are unsure who they would likely to see as the nominee.

When asked how they would vote if the election for president versus President Trump were held today, Joe Biden (43% to Trump’s 43%) and Beto O’Rourke (44% to Trump’s 45%) come within the margin of error to Trump. Other Democratic candidates, including Bernie Sanders (41% to Trump’s 45%), Elizabeth Warren (39% to Trump’s 45%), Julian Castro (37% to Trump’s 45%), Kamala Harris (37% to Trump’s 45%), and Pete Buttigieg (36% to Trump’s 44%), trail the incumbent.

For more detail on the poll results, please see the ​summary memo​ and the ​poll toplines​.

To assess voters’ attitudes toward various climate policies, as well as their experiences with impacts of climate change, Climate Nexus, in partnership with the Yale University Program on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication, conducted a representative survey of 1,660 registered Texas voters from August 20-25, 2019. The margin of error for this survey is +/- 2.4% at the 95% confidence level.