Poll: Public Concern on Warming Gains Intensity

Action

Six in 10 think much can be done to reduce both the amount of global warming and its effect on people and the environment. Fewer, but still over half -- 52 percent -- in general prefer mandated government measures rather than steps that are encouraged but not required, or no government action.

But in most cases there's no broad agreement on how to proceed, and substantial opposition to some measures. Eighty-one percent oppose higher taxes on electricity, 68 percent oppose higher gasoline taxes and 56 percent oppose giving companies tax breaks to build nuclear power plants. On the other hand, 87 percent support tax breaks to develop water, wind and solar power, long popular as alternative energy sources.

On a separate set of possible regulatory actions, just one receives majority support for mandated government action -- reducing the amount of greenhouse gases that power plants are allowed to release into the air, favored by six in 10.

Government Action
on Global Warming
  Gov't should require Gov't
should
encourage
Gov't should stay out of
Lowering power
plant emissions
  61%   26%   11%
Cars that use
less gasoline
  45%   40%   15%
Appliances that use
less electricity
  42%   41%   17%
Buildings that
use less energy
  33%   51%   15%

Fewer, 45 percent, say the government should mandate better fuel efficiency in cars, 42 percent say it should require more energy-efficient appliances and a third favor a requirement that new homes and offices be more energy-efficient. All these, however, get support as options the government should encourage via tax breaks. Fewer than two in 10 say the government should stay out of them entirely.

Big Picture

The bigger picture, in terms of overall environmental attitudes, is not positive. Sixty percent of Americans say the natural environment in the world is worse than it was 10 years ago, and 55 percent think it will be worse still 10 years from now. Pessimism peaks, not surprisingly, among people who are most concerned about climate change.

Nor do current actors get much credit: Two-thirds say President Bush did little or nothing to help the environment in the past year. And three-quarters want to see Bush and others -- Congress, American businesses and the American public -- take action to help the environment in the year ahead.

At the same time, just 35 percent of Americans say that in the past year they personally have given a lot of thought to the impact they were having on the environment. That self-reflection peaks among people who say the environment's in bad shape, and those who are most concerned about global warming and most sure it's happening.

Party, Ideology and Evangelicals

Political affiliation and ideology inform views on the environment overall and on global warming in particular: Democrats and liberals are more likely than Republicans and conservatives to say the environment's in bad shape, and more apt to believe that global warming is occurring, to call it a threat and to support government action to address it. Liberals are twice as likely as conservatives to identify climate change as the world's biggest environmental problem.

On many of these, independents more closely resemble Democrats. They're about as likely as Democrats to say global warming is important to them, to see it as potentially a very serious problem in this country, to say it threatens the world's environment a great deal, and to say much can be done to reduce it.

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