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Most Democrats and Republicans think the government should make climate change a priority

A new survey finds broad support among American voters for doing more on climate change.

Wind turbines along Interstate 40 in Adrian, Texas, on April 2, 2019.
Paul Harris/Getty Images

A new study has found widespread support for climate-friendly energy policies among registered Republicans and Democrats.

The study, conducted by Yale University and George Mason University’s climate change communication programs, surveyed nearly 1,000 registered voters from across the political spectrum — Republicans, Democrats, and independents — in December.

The survey found 53 percent of registered voters think global warming should be a high or very high priority for the president and Congress while 66 percent feel the same about developing clean energy sources.

There was also broad support from both Democrats and Republicans for eight energy policies that would help address climate change.

The two most popular policies were providing tax rebates for the purchase of solar panels or energy-efficient vehicles and funding research for renewable energy, with 82 percent approval among all voters.

While both proposals garnered close to 90 percent approval, or higher among Democrats, figures for conservative Republicans were notably lower, at about 60 percent approval for both the tax rebates and renewable energy research.

Politics & Global Warming, December 2020

Using public lands for renewable energy generation was also popular, with 80 percent of all registered voters surveyed supporting the measure.

Policies geared at regulating industry saw slightly less support. Two-thirds of respondents supported making fossil fuel companies pay a carbon tax and using that money to reduce other taxes, but the measure only received 41 percent approval among conservative Republicans.

Figures were even lower among conservative Republicans when it came to requiring electric utilities to get their energy from 100 percent renewable sources by 2035, with only 28 percent in support.

Decarbonization — eliminating all carbon pollution from coal, oil, and gas — registered approval among roughly two-thirds of American voters. But it’s also worth noting that among moderate Republicans, support for that policy was just above 50 percent and dropped to just 29 percent for the most conservative.

The survey is good news for Biden’s climate agenda

This latest polling is part of a larger trend that shows Americans are increasingly concerned about climate change and interested in policies to address it.

In April, during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic, Yale and George Mason University researchers found that a “record-tying 73 percent of Americans think global warming is happening.” In the same study, two-thirds said they were at least “somewhat worried” about climate change.

The report assuaged concerns that the public had a “finite pool of worry,” which would prevent people from being worried about two crises at the same time.

Biden has said he plans to rejoin the Paris climate agreement on day one of his presidency. According to survey results, 75 percent of all voters — 95 percent of total Democrats and 55 percent of Republicans — would support Biden’s plan.

Politics & Global Warming, December 2020

Once in office, Biden’s climate plan calls for decarbonizing the US power sector by 2035. He has also made plans to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 a cornerstone of his campaign. According to this study, about two-thirds of registered voters would be on board with such policies, signaling good news for the Biden administration’s climate goals.

So while there is some evidence that climate change is still a divisive issue, there’s also growing evidence that climate-friendly policies and taking action on climate change have bipartisan support.

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