Broad Concern about Global Warming Boosts Support for New EPA Regulations

By Gary Langer

Jun 2, 2014 1:00pm

Seven in 10 Americans see global warming as a serious problem facing the country, enough to fuel broad support for federal efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions – even if it raises their own energy costs, a new ABC News/Washington Post poll finds.

The poll, conducted in advance of the Obama administration’s announcement today of planned regulations to cut such pollution, finds 70 percent support for limiting emissions from existing power plants, and, more generally, for requiring states to cut the production of greenhouse gases within their borders.

See PDF with full results, charts and tables here.

Notably, indicating public concern about the issue, 63 percent of Americans say they’d support a regulatory effort that significantly lowered greenhouse gases even if it raised their own energy expenses by $20 per month. (The figure is hypothetical, meant to test attitudes about the possible cost of new regulations. Actual cost impacts, if any, are a subject of sharp debate.)

Support for new regulations is linked closely to concern about the issue. Sixty-nine percent of Americans in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, see global warming as a serious problem; among them, eight in 10 favor new regulations, and three-quarters are willing to pay higher energy bills if it means significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions. Among those who don’t see a serious problem, by contrast, fewer than half favor cutting emissions, and just 36 percent back regulations that would raise their energy costs.

Further, among those who do see global warming – also known as climate change – as a serious problem, the vast majority, 83 percent, say it’s “very” serious.

The administration today announced plans to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants by 30 percent from their 2005 levels by 2030. States are to be given targets based on their current emissions, with flexibility on how to achieve cuts.

PARTISANSHIP AND IDEOLOGY – Despite strong political and ideological components to views on global warming, majorities across the political spectrum support new regulations, albeit to varying degrees.

Even among Republicans, a group generally more skeptical of government regulation – and less apt to see global warming as a serious problem – 63 percent nonetheless favor reducing power plant emissions, and 57 percent back state-level limits on greenhouse gases. These also are backed, respectively, by 55 and 54 percent of conservatives. (On one of these, power plant emissions, there’s a substantial gap in support between “somewhat” and “strong” conservatives.)

Support rises to eight in 10 Democrats, and peaks among liberals.

There are similar results on willingness to bear higher costs personally. Fifty-one and 44 percent of Republicans and conservatives, respectively, say they’d support efforts that significantly reduced greenhouse gas emissions but also raised their energy bills by $20 a month. That increases among independents and moderates, and tops out among Democrats and liberals.

The sharpest political and ideological divisions come on the most basic question, whether people see climate change as a serious problem or not. Eighty-four percent of Democrats do; that declines to 68 percent of political independents, and dives to 49 percent of Republicans.

Similarly, global warming is seen as a serious problem by half of conservatives overall, and just 41 percent of people who describe themselves as very conservative. That compares with 74 percent among moderates and 87 percent among liberals. (Conservatives account for a bit more than a third of the population overall; moderates for about four in 10, liberals a quarter.)

These divisions appear most sharply when comparing liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans. In the former group, 90 percent see climate change as a serious problem. In the latter group, it’s 37 percent.

OTHER GROUPS – Perhaps surprisingly, regulations that raise energy costs by $20 a month win majority support across income groups, ranging from 71 percent among those with incomes of $100,000 or more to 60 percent among those with incomes less than $50,000.

There’s also a sharp difference by age, with higher costs acceptable to 74 percent of young adults, age 18 to 29, but dropping to 52 percent among those 65 and older. Seniors are more apt to be on fixed incomes, but there’s another factor as well – they’re also 14 percentage points less likely than young adults to see global warming as a serious problem in the first place, 60 vs. 74 percent.

Among other groups, women are more likely than men to see global warming as a serious problem, 75 vs. 61 percent. And concern is much lower among evangelical white Protestants, a mainstay conservative Republican group, than others. Forty-six percent of evangelical white Protestants see global warming as a serious problem, compared with 64 percent of non-evangelical white Protestants, 68 percent of white Catholics and 80 percent of those with no religious affiliation (a younger, more liberal group).

Also of note are cases in which there’s no meaningful difference among groups. Climate change is seen as a serious problem almost equally in the red states won by Mitt Romney in 2012 and in the blue states won by Barack Obama, at 67 and 70 percent, respectively. And support for limits on greenhouse gas emissions are about the same in the Midwest – where regulation may have the strongest impact – as in the nation as a whole.

METHODOLOGY – This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by telephone May 29-June 1, 2014, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,002 adults, including landline and cell-phone-only respondents. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3.5 points, including design effect. Partisan divisions are 33-24-35 percent, Democrats-Republicans-independents.

The survey was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates of New York, N.Y., with sampling, data collection and tabulation by Abt-SRBI of New York, N.Y.

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