AEI Public Opinion Study: Polls on the environment, energy, global warming, and nuclear power – 2017
For more than a decade, AEI’s Political Corner has compiled public opinion polls on a variety of issues. Each year around Earth Day, AEI releases a new collection with historical data and updates from the major pollsters on the environment, energy, global warming, and nuclear power. These issues are particularly interesting now because President Trump and his appointees have articulated different policy goals than the Obama administration. Below are some of the highlights from this year’s collection.
- A Democratic advantage: By significant margins, Americans believe that the Democratic Party would do a better job than the GOP on the environment. In an April 2017 Pew Research Center poll, 59 percent said the Democrats would do a better job compared to 28 percent who said the GOP would. The Democrat margin on this issue was larger than its margin on any of the other 11 issues Pew tested. In our AEI Public Opinion Study, Republicans have the lead in only one of 89 similar questions asked since 1971 (page 3).
- Presidential ratings on the issues: President Trump’s early marks on handling the environment are low. In a March Gallup poll, 36 percent said he would do a good job on the issue, while 57 percent said he would do a poor job. People were more optimistic about him handling energy issues, as 46 percent said he would do a good job, and 48 percent said he would do a poor one. President Obama’s initial ratings on the issue were more positive. In the Public Opinion Study, we look at the ratings of presidents since Bill Clinton was in office. We also examine public opinion on presidential candidates on handling the environment and global climate change (candidates, page 7; ratings, page 10).
- Worries about the environment: Concern about the environment and global climate change appears to be rising slightly. In Gallup’s extensive polling, concerns that global warming is happening, that it will pose a threat, and that it is caused by human activities reached all-time highs (page 72). Only 19 percent in a new Quinnipiac poll say it is a hoax.
- Not a top priority: Neither the environment nor climate change are top-tier issues for the public in their priorities for the president and Congress (page 73). The environment ranks in the middle of Pew’s list, and global climate change ranks near the bottom. There are deep partisan differences about these priorities as there are about many other issues today.
- Environmentalism: Around 20 percent of Americans say they are active in the environmental movement. Most are sympathetic but not active, and only around 10 percent are unsympathetic. These responses have changed little since Gallup first asked about them in 2000 (page 45).
- Keystone XL: Two recent polls (Pew and Fox) show that Americans have cooled on building the Keystone XL pipeline (which President Trump approved). In Pew’s latest poll from February 2017, 42 percent were in favor — down from 66 percent in 2013. Rising opposition has been driven largely by Democrats (page 126).