To get at the heart of the public’s views on a number of energy and climate change issues up for debate, EPIC partners with The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research to conduct annual public opinion polls.
The EPIC/AP-NORC polls reveal that a growing number of people believe climate change is a problem the government needs to address. Of those who believe climate change is happening, the most recent poll shows 76 percent of Republicans, 96 percent of Democrats and 81 percent of Independents believe the government should do something about climate change. Close to a majority of Americans are also more persuaded by the science of climate change than they were five years ago; of those who have become more certain in the science, three-quarters credit recent extreme weather events for changing their views.
Despite a clear acceptance of climate science and strong support for government action to combat it, the polls have found Americans are ambivalent about paying for such action. Over the last three years, EPIC/AP-NORC has asked respondents how large a fee they would be willing to pay in their monthly electricity bill to combat climate change. Each year, a narrow majority is willing to pay at least $1, with smaller numbers of people willing to pay more. The flip side is, however, that a substantial minority of Americans would not pay anything at all. Party identification and acceptance of climate change are the main correlates to whether people are willing to pay, with Democrats being consistently more inclined to pay more.
What else have the EPIC/AP-NORC polls gleaned about public opinion on climate change and energy?
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- Carbon Taxes: 44 percent support a carbon tax, while 29 percent oppose one. When told some ways the funds might be used, support is generally higher than the 44 percent baseline. Two-thirds support a carbon tax if the funds are used for environmental restoration. If respondents are told that the revenues will be rebated to households, support is only modestly higher, at 49 percent. Support was lower if a carbon tax was linked to loosened environmental regulations. (2019 Poll)
- Fuel Economy Standards: The Trump administration proposed a freeze on fuel efficiency standards in 2018, rolling back an Obama administration rule that requires automakers to nearly double the fuel economy of passenger vehicles to an average of about 54 miles per gallon by 2025. Half of those surveyed were told the proposed freeze could mean that greenhouse gas emissions would not be reduced. In those cases, only 21 percent support the freeze. The other half of those surveyed were told the proposed freeze could lead to reduced prices for cars. In response, 49 percent support the freeze. (2019 Poll)
- Hydraulic Fracturing: More Americans lack an opinion on the use of fracking in the United States than support it: 37 percent neither favor nor oppose fracking, 17 percent favor it, and 41 percent oppose it. Americans’ support for fracking jumps from 17 percent to 41 percent when presented with evidence that it will save them $250 annually on their personal natural gas bill. Meanwhile, the 41 percent who initially said they opposed fracking increased to 51 percent and 58 percent, respectively, when presented with health and environmental arguments against it. (2017 Poll)
- Coal: When it comes to support for policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, most Americans (46 percent of Republicans and 67 percent of Democrats) are in favor of federal regulations that would decrease U.S. coal consumption. If this question is paired with the assertion that such regulations have resulted in the loss of thousands of coal jobs, support wanes slightly from 54 percent to 45 percent. Democrats express the same level of support regardless of whether the question includes an assertion about job losses. (2016 Poll)