Climate Change Not a Top Priority for Americans

Yesterday, Washington Post’s Plum Line blog wrote that climate change is the one “bright spot” for Democrats in the upcoming midterm election. Despite the very real prospect of losing the Senate, the blog asserts, “Liberals may have made a bit of headway in forcing climate change on to the national agenda.”

For support, the article cites a Pew poll finding that large swaths of the population overwhelmingly believe in climate change (such as 18-29 year olds, nonwhites, and college educated whites). It then points to another article that mentions certain segments of the population are increasingly naming climate change as an important issue, such as minorities, the millennial generation, and socially liberal upscale whites.

However, believing in climate change is not the same as prioritizing it as an important issue, and is a far cry from advocating legislative or regulatory action.

Reality check: a Pew article from last month titled “Polls show most Americans believe in climate change, but give it low priority” explains why climate change is not a winning issue. As the article explains, climate change “ranked near the bottom of Americans’ 2014 priorities for President Obama and Congress.” Most people are not focused on climate change. Instead, Pew found that Americans are most concerned with issues such as the economy, jobs, education, and balancing the budget.

Top Policy Priorities: Economy, Jobs, Terrorism

Our own polling shows similar results. In fact, as many as four out of five of those polled said that Congress and the President should make jobs and the economy one of their top priorities for 2014. Other top priorities included health care (60 percent) and federal spending (59 percent).

In addition to viewing climate change as a low priority, most American voters have serious reservations about the federal government’s involvement in their energy choices (which is exactly what environmentalists advocate for to address climate change). When asked about specific federal programs that implement the agenda of national environmentalist groups, voters reject them.

This is especially true when polled on the wind Production Tax Credit (PTC), where only 18 percent of those polled said that federal tax credits where the best way to develop and improve alternative sources of energy. The same goes for EPA’s proposed power plant rule, where 60 percent of respondents disagreed with the rule’s implicit mandate on citizens to buy certain amounts of renewable energy (also known as building block number three).

This is not new information for politicians. In 2009, Democrats had an opportunity to pass cap-and-trade legislation when they controlled both chambers of Congress. Like the name implies, cap-and-trade would have capped total emissions of carbon dioxide, hamstringing the economy. This legislation failed on a bipartisan basis because of voter pushback.

Put simply, the vast majority of voters do not see climate change as an important issue, and many rank it near the bottom of their priorities. Bloggers who claim victory for the left on the issue of climate change aren’t taking an objective look at the facts. They can hope that these facts will change, but wishful thinking rarely makes for good policy.

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