As the United States Senate ramps up its efforts on climate-change legislation this week, a bipartisan poll released Monday suggests that a strong majority of voters believe global warming is a real and needs to be remedied.
Some 56 percent of likely general-election voters say global warming is happening now, and a further 21 percent say it will happen in the future, according to a survey by Democratic Pollster Mark Mellman and Republican pollster Bill McInturff. By contrast, some 16 percent said global warming will not happen.
The study was funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts Global Warming Campaign.
When asked whether they favored having the United States take steps to reduce the emission of gases like carbon dioxide that cause global warming, 77 percent of respondents favored action, 18 percent opposed action, and 5 percent were undecided.
“The battle for legitimacy of the global warming issue has largely been won with the public,” Mr. Mellman said at a Monitor sponsored breakfast for reporters. “There is no evidence that we have uncovered in Democratic districts of a backlash against those who support this legislation,” he added.
Striking a contrary note, though, a survey released in October by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press suggests that Americans' certainty about climate change is declining. It found that the percentage of Americans surveyed who believe there is “solid evidence the earth is warming” has dropped from 71 percent to 57 percent since April 2008.
Fighting global warming = jobs?
In the survey by Messrs. Mellman and McInturff, a large plurality of voters canvassed – 48 percent – thought efforts to reduce global warming would create new American jobs. The view that efforts to reduce global warming will cost American jobs was held by 27 percent of those surveyed. Another 16 percent thought efforts to remedy global warming would have no effect on jobs.
Despite strong, bipartisan support for remedial action, “party labels do shift this data,” said McInturff, who served as John McCain’s pollster in the 2008 presidential election. For example, 49 percent of Republicans think global warming is a serious threat, versus 90 percent of Democrats and 70 percent of independents.
In fact, “our core Republican primary voters do not believe in global warming” by a 2-to-1 majority, said McInturff. So the pollsters' partner, Public Opinion Strategies, argued that among core Republican voters the argument for action on the climate should be tied to the need for energy independence.
Tough road for Senate bill
Senate Republicans on the Environment and Public Works Committee plan to boycott a meeting Tuesday to debate a potential climate-change bill. Even Democrats are deeply divided, according to The Washington Post.
When asked why climate legislation faced such an apparently tough road in the Senate, Mellman noted that “by and large congressional opinion tends to run beyond public opinion, sometimes pretty substantially.” He added that, “obviously you get into the details and people have sectoral interests, geographic interests.”
For Republicans, part of resistance to climate-change legislation is the desire “not be seen as the deciding vote to help a major Obama initiative,” McInturff said. “I think that is the political dynamic.”
Polling in battleground states and congressional districts by the Mellman Group and Public Opinion Strategies was conducted in several waves starting in July and ending in late October. National survey data was collected in late September among general election voters and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
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