Jun 29, 2023 - Energy & Environment

America's surprising energy and climate views

Share who say that renewable energy would make the following 
<span style="color: black; background-color:#A283FF; padding: 0px 4px; display: inline-block; border-radius: 5px; margin: 5px 0px 0px; white-space: nowrap">better</span>, have 
<span style="color: black; background-color:#CFD0D0; padding: 0px 4px; display: inline-block; border-radius: 5px; margin: 5px 0px 0px; white-space: nowrap; ">no impact</span>, or
<span style="color: black; background-color:#FCB05F; padding: 0px 4px; display: inline-block; border-radius: 5px; margin: 5px 0px 0px; white-space: nowrap">worse</span>
Data: Pew; Note: Includes those who say they lean Democratic or Republican. Renewable energy means increasing energy production from renewable sources and decreasing production from fossil fuels; Chart: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals

Americans aren't fully supportive of backing away from fossil fuels and are not yet sold on an all-electric vehicle future after 2035.

The big picture: Those findings are part of detailed new Pew Research Center polling. At the same time, the data shows a large majority of those surveyed favor taking steps to combat climate change and prioritizing renewable sources like solar and wind power.

Why it matters: The polling offers granular, policy-specific data on how Americans view the energy transition, potential benefits and downsides, and where applicable, how these opinions have changed over time.

Zoom in: Based on a survey of more than 10,000 adults conducted this spring, Pew found that 74% of Americans support U.S. efforts to reduce the effects of climate change, though support among Democrats was stronger than from Republicans.

Yes, but: There's a limit to how far the public is willing to go. Only 31% of Americans favor completely phasing out fossil fuels like coal and natural gas.

  • And 35% of Americans think the U.S. should never stop using fossil fuels for its energy needs.

Between the lines: The survey showed the clear differences between how Democrats and Republicans view the energy transition more broadly, and soft Democratic support for Biden's climate policies.

  • Republicans and Republican-leaning independents think transitioning to renewable energy would raise consumer costs, while Democrats see more benefits.
  • Although Republicans think America's energy priority should be expanding fossil fuels, 67% still favored a business tax credit for developing carbon capture technologies, and 70% said they support more solar panel farms. Wind garnered less support, at 60%.
  • Among the majority of Democrats who think Biden's policies are headed in the right direction, 59% said he "could be doing a lot more on climate change."

The intrigue: When it comes to the push to deploy electric vehicles, only 40% favor phasing out the production of gas-powered cars and trucks starting in 2035, a drop of 7 percentage points from two years ago.

  • Another question revealed skepticism that the U.S. will deploy a sufficient charging station infrastructure to support a switch to EVs — with even Democrats expressing a lack of confidence.
  • Building a network of EV stations nationwide is a key White House climate policy goal.

Of note: The Pew poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.5 percentage points.

Meanwhile, more polling out Wednesday, this one from Yale and George Mason University, found that most of the registered voters surveyed had not heard "a lot" or even "some" of what was in the Biden administration's signature climate law.

  • But, after reading a short description of it, 71% of registered voters supported it.
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