New Survey: Americans Worried About Climate Change, But Don’t Want to Pay More for Costly Responses

The Economy/Jobs and Health Care are The Top of Mind Issues for Americans When Thinking of Their Votes For Federal Offices, Not Climate Change

WASHINGTON, DC – An overwhelming majority of adults worry about the quality of the environment and over half say climate change is happening and that it is caused by human activity. But despite intensive media coverage of environmental protests, the United Nations Climate Change Summit, and two presidential candidate forums, the issue of climate change is not the top issue for many voters, according to a new survey released today by the American Council for Capital Formation When asked about their top issue, more Americans say the economy/jobs and health care are top issues than say climate change. While an overwhelming majority of respondents say that climate change solutions should be bipartisan, they do not trust the federal government or Congress to find the right solutions. Nor are they willing to pay more in higher taxes, utility, or transportation costs to address climate change.

“In spite of intense levels of political discussion, public demonstrations, and media reports dedicated to climate change, most Americans do not regard it as their leading issue,” ACCF Senior Vice President and Chief Economist Pinar Çebi Wilber said. “Voters believe that the climate is changing, but they care more about pocketbook issues like jobs and healthcare. They also clearly distrust the White House and Congress to properly address climate change and overwhelmingly reject any solutions that result in higher out-of-pocket bills for their household.”

Top findings from the Morning Consult poll include:

• When asked about the top issue on mind when casting a vote for federal office, respondents listed the economy and jobs (19%) and health care (16%) followed by gun policy, national security and seniors’ issues which all ranked at 8%. Only 7% of adults indicated that climate change was their top issue, tying with immigration.
• 81% of adults say it is important that any national climate solution be bipartisan.
• Adults do not trust the government to address climate change: 61% distrust President Trump to do the right thing to address climate change, 64% distrust Congress, and 64% distrust the federal government.
• 70% of respondents are not willing to pay more in electric bills, 67% are not willing to pay more in transportation costs, 66% are not willing to pay more in taxes, and 67% are not willing to pay more in food costs to see a shift to 100% renewable energy.
• Affordability, over environmental friendliness, efficiency, or reliability, is the most important factor when thinking about the energy adults use every day.
• When given more information about natural gas and its clean energy nature, abundance, and source of cutting carbon emissions, a majority (70%) of adults support continued use of natural gas for electricity.
• 51% of adults don’t know/have no opinion when thinking of their support/opposition of the Green New Deal. When given more information about the Green New Deal, 36% of adults say it will be realistically implemented, while 44% say it will not be realistically implemented.

“While the Green New Deal may be popular among progressives in Congress and most of the Democratic presidential field, most adults haven’t heard of it or have no opinion on it. When they are educated on it, they are skeptical of it being implemented,” Wilber said. “If lawmakers wish to find solutions to climate change that will win the hearts and minds of voters, they must understand that energy is the backbone of a healthy economy and work in a bipartisan manner to find a menu of realistic solutions that strike a balance between protecting the environment and the economy.”

The poll was conducted by Morning Consult from September 13-15, 2019, among a national sample of 2,198 adults. Respondent demographics were 38% Democrat, 33% Independent, and 29% Republican. 30% of respondents were Trump voters in 2016 and 33% voted for Hillary Clinton. A full demographic breakdown can be viewed in the poll summary.