Climate Change, Tax Pledge Among Issues to Watch for 2016 (POLL)

PHOTO: Climate change is among the issues to watch in 2016.Getty Images
Climate change is among the issues to watch in 2016.

Two issue positions show potential to carry unexpected clout in the 2016 presidential election -- support for action to address climate change and opposition to a no-tax pledge, a new ABC News/Washington Post poll finds.

Openness to political compromise also has the support, and the priority, to carry weight in the national conversation that lies ahead.

See PDF with full results and data tables here.

All three emerge from an approach that combines public preferences on these and other issues with the level of importance Americans ascribe to them. They’re combined in a PxP score -- preference times priority -- assessing the interplay of these two factors in political attitudes.

The poll, produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates, finds that opposing a no-tax pledge has the broadest base: Seventy-two percent of Americans hold this view, including big majorities across party lines. Only about half in this group overall call the issue an important one, but their views on it are so lopsided that it wins a high score, nonetheless.

Supporters of a tax pledge, by contrast, are much more likely to call it an important issue -- but there are few of them.

Desire for the next president to support action on climate change takes a different path: It’s low among Republicans, but broad enough among Democrats and independents, and important enough to them, to give it potential influence.

Overall, Americans by 59-31 percent say they want the next president to be someone who favors government action to address climate change, and 58 percent call it an important issue. Again there’s a sharp difference in importance depending on one’s position: Among those who favor federal action, 68 percent call it an important issue. Among those who oppose action, far fewer say it’s important to them, 39 percent.

On a third issue to emerge as potentially influential, Americans by 58-37 percent say they’d rather have a president who mainly tries to compromise than one who mainly stands up for his or her side, and 72 percent overall say it’s important to them. Both those who favor compromise and those who prefer a more partisan approach say it’s an important issue, with preference for taking partisan sides, and calling this important, peaking among Republicans.

Other issues are contentious, but with no clear advantage in preference or priority for one side or the other. Obamacare is an example. Americans divide 49-45 percent on whether the next president should be someone who wants to keep the federal health care law or wants to repeal it, and those on both sides call the issue highly important. The partisan divisions are vast.

Views on a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants are similarly inconclusive in terms of their potential political influence. Americans by 51-45 percent say they’d like to see the next president support rather than oppose a path to citizenship, again with sharp partisan differences. Fifty-nine percent overall call this an important issue, about equal numbers on both sides.

One other issue tested, views on the next president’s approach to a nuclear agreement with Iran, also produced sharply partisan responses, but in this case opponents are more apt to call it important.

PxP SCORE – The PxP score was developed by Langer Research Associates for use in political and market research alike. Computed here on a scale of -100 to 100, it multiplies individuals’ preferences on an issue (or for a candidate or product) with the importance they give to that position. Moving farther from 0 in either direction indicates that an issue has priority, differentiated preference or both of these at sufficient levels to be potentially influential.

Overall, PxP values are 29 for climate change, -25 for the tax pledge issue (the negative sign shows opposition) and 15 on compromise vs. partisanship. (Consider that very high or very low scores are difficult to obtain -- they’d require very broad agreement on policies and priorities alike.) Scores drop to 3, 3 and 2, respectively, on Obamacare, immigration reform and a pact with Iran; those indicate either a lack of differentiated preference overall, a low priority or both.

As noted, though, sharp partisan divisions may make for different discussions in the 2016 primaries as opposed to the general election. Government action on climate change has a PxP score of 58 among Democrats and 29 among independents, but -12 among Republicans. On compromise vs. partisanship, it’s 21, 22 and 1, respectively. And on the ACA, most strikingly, it’s 55, 5 and -63.

METHODOLOGY – This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by landline and cellular telephone March 26-29, 2015, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,003 adults. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3.5 points, including design effect. Partisan divisions are 30-22-38 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.