Thursday, May 24, 2012

Environmental Gap Narrowing Between Dems and GOP

The majority of Americans think that protecting the environment both fosters growth and creates new jobs while less than 20 percent think that environmental protection hurts the economy and job growth. Although Democrats tend to be ardent supporters of the green economy, there is evidence that more Republicans see the economic benefits of going green. This data has important implications for the choices Americans will be making between Democrats and Republicans this fall.

As reported in a Triple Pundit article, these results are from a recently released poll by Yale University and George Mason University’s climate change communication program. The survey indicated that 58 percent of Americans think that protecting the environment improves economic growth and creates new jobs and only 17 percent said that environmental protection hurts the economy and job growth (25 percent think there is no effect).

When people are asked to decide between protecting the environment and improving the economy, 62 percent of Americans said that they think it is more important to protect the environment while only 38 percent thought economic growth is more important.

The study indicates that when it comes to support for the green economy the gap between Republicans and Democrats is getting smaller. More than 9 out of 10 Democrats and 7 in 10 Republicans said that protecting the environment either improves economic growth and provides new jobs, or has no effect.

According to the poll, Americans want to see more clean energy with 92 percent indicating that developing clean energy sources should be a priority for the President and the Congress. Even Republicans share this view as indicated by the fact that 84 percent of Republicans agreed that this should be a medium to high priority.

The survey suggests that Americans want to address global warming. More than two-thirds of respondents (68 percent) said they think that the US should make either a large-scale or medium-scale effort to reduce global warming. What is most interesting is the fact that Americans want action on global warming "even if it would have large or moderate economic costs."

To help develop renewable sources of energy, almost 80 percent of respondents indicated they also support R&D for developing renewable energy sources, (including 74 percent of Republicans). However, Solyndra debacle may have cast a shadow over some Americans perception of renewable energy. According to this poll opposition to renewable energy research more than doubled from eight percent in 2008 to 21 percent in 2012.

A total of 63 percent of Americans support a renewable portfolio standard requiring utilities to produce at least 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources, even if household costs increase by $100 a year. However when it comes to strong support for a renewable portfolio standard the difference between Republicans and Democrats becomes apparent. A total of 65 percent of Democrats support this policy, but only 47 percent of Republicans support it.

This study also addressed American attitudes on the fossil fuel industry with more than half of respondents (61 percent) indicating they support holding the fossil fuel industry responsible for “all the hidden costs we pay for citizens who get sick from polluted air and water, military costs to maintain our access to foreign oil, and the environmental costs of spills and accidents.” Here too we see the difference between Republicans and Democrats with 68 percent of Democrats favoring it, but only 54 of Republicans in favor of the policy.

When it comes to the environment Republicans may not be as enlightened as Democrats but increasingly we are seeing a trend that pits Republican voters against the platform of their presidential hopeful.

© 2012, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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