Feb 25, 2020 - Energy & Environment

One-third of U.S. voters believe climate change is a crisis

Climate change activists in Los Angeles on Feb. 7. Photo: Ronen Tivony/Echoes Wire/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Over one-third of registered voters consider climate change a crisis and 59% say the Trump administration is doing too little to address it, a Brunswick Group survey released Tuesday shows.

Why it matters: The datareleased Tuesday arrives as climate is playing a more prominent role in the 2020 election cycle — and the policy stakes are high.

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Data: Brunswick Group survey of 1,000 registered U.S. voters conducted Dec. 3–13. Margin of error ±3.02; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

Major Democratic hopefuls have plans that call for more aggressive federal steps than former President Obama took.

  • The White House, meanwhile, is continuing its efforts to roll back Obama-era rules and policies.
  • The findings tend to show deep partisan splits in voters' views.

By the numbers: 36% agree climate change is a crisis that requires immediate policy changes, though the partisan gap is wide.

  • 28% listed climate among the top two topics that will influence their vote in November, making it tied with the economy but well behind health care.
  • 67% are either somewhat or very worried about the affordability of energy.
  • 61% back the Green New Deal, which the survey defined as a 10-year national mobilization to cut emissions to the maximum extent possible.
  • 51% agree a carbon tax is a "good idea," including 41% of Republicans. A quarter of the overall respondent mix were unsure.
  • 66% agree that California and other states should have power to regulate vehicle carbon emissions at a time when the Trump administration is seeking to prevent it.

The intrigue: One theme in the findings, Brunswick's polling memo notes, is that "Trump’s brand affects how his supporters view climate policy."

  • In one case, Trump voters' support for thwarting California went up when told it was a "Trump administration" policy as opposed to a "U.S. government" move.
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Data: Brunswick Group survey of 1,000 registered U.S. voters conducted Dec. 3–13. Margin of error ±3.02; Chart: Axios Visuals
  • Oil companies' moves on climate have been in the headlines lately, so check out how the Brunswick Group took the pulse on it.
  • Voters could select three parties "most responsible" for causing climate change from a menu of seven options (including oil companies, "big business," individuals, government and more). A similar question was asked about addressing it.

Note: The Brunswick Group paid for and conducted the survey of 1,000 voters in December. Questions for the full sample have a margin-of-error of plus-or-minus 3%.

Go deeper

Hardly anyone talks about climate change

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Politicians, corporations, the media and activists are talking about climate change more than ever — but most Americans are not.

Be smart: If you’re reading this on social media, you’re probably the exception, not the rule. Just 9% of Americans talk about climate change often, surveys by Yale and George Mason University indicate.

South Carolina exit polls: Climate change slips as top priority vs. Iowa, New Hampshire

A voter in Columbia, South Carolina. Photo: Sean Rayford/Getty Images

South Carolina's Democratic primary voters were less likely to list climate change as a top issue compared to previous nominating contests, according to the AP's VoteCast exit polls.

The big picture: Health care, climate change and the economy have been the top 3 issues in each primary to this point.

Big climate change policy unlikely no matter who wins the White House

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Don’t hold your breath for big climate policy changes — even if a Democrat wins the White House.

Why it matters: Congress is likely to remain gridlocked on the matter, leading to either more of the same with President Trump’s re-election or a regulatory swing back to the left no matter which Democrat wins — but far short of a legislative overhaul.