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Voters Support Stimulus for Clean Energy, Not Fossil Fuels

Photo of Congress on a US dollar bill representing stimulus bill to support climate change | Climate Nexus Polls

POLL: Voters Support Stimulus for Clean Energy, Not Fossil Fuels

Seven in 10 support federal stimulus funding to state and local governments
More than seven in 10 say it’s important for Congress to address climate change
62% more likely to support candidates who back COVID response aid for renewables

A new poll released today finds that as states continue to reopen and coronavirus cases continue to climb, American voters want to see climate action as part of the economic recovery plan. The poll from Climate Nexus, the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication also finds voters are more likely to vote for political candidates who support stimulus funding for the renewable energy industry and are less likely to vote for candidates who support financial bailouts for fossil fuel companies.

Strong majorities of voters support action on climate change as part of stimulus recovery packages and want their elected officials to support those policies as well. More than six in 10 (62%) voters say they would be more likely to vote for a political candidate who supports federal stimulus funding for the renewable energy industry, twice the number of voters who say they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who supports bailing out the fossil fuel industry (31%). Roughly two-thirds of voters also say they would be more likely to vote for candidates who support the following policies: assistance to communities losing jobs in the fossil fuel industry (69%), ensuring protection of low-income communities and communities of color that are most vulnerable to climate impacts (67%), a carbon tax (65%), and requiring electric utility companies to generate 100% of their electricity from clean sources by 2040 (65%).

Voters generally support stimulus funding, including for the clean energy industry and state and local governments. Seven in 10 (70%) voters say the federal government should prioritize the clean energy industry over the fossil fuel industry for stimulus funding. Seven in 10 (70%) voters also support federal aid to state and local governments in order to avoid raising taxes and making deep cuts to government programs and services.

Additionally, voters want to see conditions placed on companies that receive stimulus funding. Eighty-six percent of voters say companies that receive funding must use the money to keep workers on payroll. About eight in 10 say companies that receive federal stimulus funding must comply with environmental and labor regulations (80%), and that these companies should not be run by members of Congress, the executive branch, or their family members (78%). And seven in 10 (70%) say airline companies that receive stimulus funding must create and implement a greenhouse gas emissions reduction plan.

“Americans prefer stimulus funding go to the renewable energy industry, rather than the fossil fuel industry,” said ​Dr. ​Anthony Leiserowitz, Director of ​the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. “Across the board, voters support using the recovery to fight climate change and build a clean energy future.”

More than seven in 10 voters (72%) say it’s important for Congress to address climate change, including more than four in 10 (44%) who believe it is very important for Congress to do so. And about seven in 10 (71%) voters support legislation to achieve a 100% clean economy by eliminating fossil fuel emissions from the transportation, electricity, buildings, industry, and agricultural sectors in the United States by 2050. By more than a two-to-one margin, voters believe this transition will have a positive (58%) rather than a negative (26%) impact on jobs and economic growth.

Transition to 100 clean economy impact graphic | Climate Nexus Poll

There is broad support for a variety of investments in clean transportation, including electric vehicles, and expanding access to transportation. Close to three-quarters (73%) support setting stronger fuel efficiency standards for cars, trucks, and SUVs, and about seven in 10 support investing federal funding to expand public transportation (72%) and replace gas- and diesel-powered buses with electric buses (69%). More than six in 10 support investing federal funding to build electric vehicle charging infrastructure (65%) and investing in manufacturing electric vehicles and parts (62%).

Voters are also strongly in favor of public investment to modernize the power grid and encourage consumer energy efficiency. More than three-quarters support federal funding to upgrade the electric grid and expand the production of renewable energy (78%), help state and local governments improve the energy efficiency of new and existing buildings (78%), and install solar panels to reduce electricity bills in low-income communities (77%). There is also strong support for tax credits and other incentives for individuals to improve the energy efficiency of their homes (84%); for homeowners, landlords, and businesses to purchase appliances that don’t use fossil fuels (74%); and for companies to produce battery storage systems for renewable energy (73%).

Voters also support increased funding to protect against climate impacts, particularly in low-income communities and communities of color. Nearly three-quarters (73%) support increasing federal funding to protect vulnerable low-income communities and communities of color from immediate environmental dangers and extreme weather. And roughly two-thirds (66%) support creating a National Climate Bank to fund public and private sector projects to reduce carbon pollution and prepare communities to withstand the effects of climate change.

There is substantial support for measures to ensure Americans have access to clean water. About eight in 10 voters support using federal money to provide clean water to the two million Americans who currently do not have running water (84%). And more than three-quarters support allocating federal money to provide assistance to low-income Americans to help pay their water utility bills (77%) and temporarily halting water shutoffs for Americans who are unable to pay their water utility bills due to the economic crisis (76%).

Voters support protecting public lands and waters as part of legislation to address climate change. More than eight in 10 (83%) support increasing funding for reforestation on federal lands to restore forests and plant trees after natural disasters, including a majority (51%) who strongly support this. Two-thirds (67%) back legislation to eliminate the emission of carbon pollution on public lands by 2040, and a majority (51%) support ending the leasing of public lands and offshore waters to fossil fuel companies for the production of oil, gas, and coal.

There is strong support for investing in solutions to reduce carbon pollution. More than three-quarters (76%) of voters support providing no-interest loans, tax credits, and other incentives to farmers to expand agricultural practices that reduce carbon pollution and store carbon in the soil. At least seven in 10 support federal investments in research and development to reduce carbon pollution from industrial manufacturing (72%) and to develop and deploy technologies to remove carbon pollution from the atmosphere (70%).

“The public is eager to see their elected representatives take action against climate change,” said Dr. Edward Maibach, Director of George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change Communication. “Specific, aggressive policies to reduce heat-trapping pollution and protect against climate impacts have widespread support.”

A few months ahead of the November general election, Democratic candidates have the edge in both the congressional and presidential races. Nearly half (48%) of voters say if the election for Congress in their district were held today, they would vote for the Democrat, while 42% would vote for the Republican, and 11% would vote for neither candidate or for another candidate. And when voters were asked how they would vote if the election for president were held today, Joe Biden (48%) enjoys a seven-point advantage over Donald Trump (41%).

For more detail on the poll results, please see 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 Program on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication, conducted a representative survey June 6-11, 2020 of 9,087 registered voters in the United States. The margin of error for this survey is +/- 1% at the 95% confidence level.