Poll: Less support for U.S. climate policy

STANFORD (US) — Political rhetoric and cooler-than-average weather may be the reason support for government action on global warming has dropped in the last two years, a new survey shows.

The survey shows that public support for a range of U.S. government policies intended to reduce future climate change remains high but dropped by an average of 5 percentage points per year between 2010 and 2012. Economics do not appear to have played a role.


In a 2010 Stanford survey, more than three-quarters of respondents expressed support for mandating more efficient and less polluting cars, appliances, homes, offices, and power plants. Nearly 90 percent of respondents favored federal tax breaks to spur companies to produce more electricity from water, wind, and solar energy. On average, 72 percent of respondents supported government action on climate change in 2010.

By 2012, that support had dropped to 62 percent, with the drop concentrated among Americans who distrust climate scientists, even more so among such people who identify themselves as Republicans. Americans who don’t trust climate science were especially aware of and influenced by recent shifts in world temperature. 2011 was tied for the coolest of the last 11 years.

Also, during the recent campaign, all but one Republican presidential candidate expressed doubt about global warming, and some urged no government action to address the issue, says Jon Krosnick, a senior fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University.

Rick Santorum described belief in climate change as a “pseudo-religion,” while Ron Paul called it a “hoax.” Mitt Romney, the apparent Republican nominee, has said, “I can tell you the right course for America with regard to energy policy is to focus on job creation and not global warming.”

The study, conducted in collaboration with Ipsos Public Affairs, found no evidence that the decline in public support for government action was concentrated among respondents who lived in states struggling the most economically.

Overall, majorities of Americans continue to support many specific government actions to mitigate global warming’s effect. However, most Americans remain opposed to consumer taxes intended to decrease public use of electricity and gasoline.

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