It’s no secret that American voters want to see more renewable energy, and favor highly ambitious moves to transition the nation’s power supply. But in politics, the details matter.
In a new poll conducted on April 12-14, Morning Consult asked 1,998 registered voters across age, eduction and political spectrum not only broad questions, but about the specifics of renewable energy policies currently proposed, among other matters. And it this revealed a number of details about what the nation’s voters want. You can see the entire poll here, and following are our top conclusions reached from the data.
1) Voters say 100% renewable electricity by 2030 more important than other steps to fight climate change
One of the notable features of the Morning Consult report is that it asked voters about several different approaches to addressing climate change to gauge relative support for each. But while the approaches of funding innovation, setting deadlines to reach zero emissions, phasing out fossil fuels and moving to 100% renewable energy were all seen as important, they did not receive equal consideration.
Next to a rather vague proposal regarding committing to “clean energy innovation”, which took the top spot, committing to 100% renewable energy “over a 10-year period” came in #2, with roughly 2/3 of respondents declaring that this is “important” or “very important” to addressing climate change.
The wording here is noteworthy. The poll doesn’t ask whether or not voters support this idea, but rather whether it is important to addressing climate change. More on that later.
2) Support for the Green New Deal is less uniform than in previous polls
The Morning Consult poll also asked about general support for the Green New Deal, as expressed put forward by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D) in a resolution which was rejected by the Republican majority in the U.S. Senate last month. Democrats mostly abstained from the vote.
Support for this measure among voters was mixed, with only 46% expressing support, versus 31% in opposition, however 23% either didn’t know or didn’t have an opinion. This reflected the nation’s political polarization, with 69% of registered Democrats expressing some degree of support and only 25% of Republicans.
This is in sharp contrast to a poll conducted by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication (YPCCC) last December, which found 81% in support of the Green New Deal as it was described by the pollsters, with support across the political spectrum.
3)… but voters know more about it (for better or worse)
The Morning Consult poll also shows a much higher knowledge of the Green New Deal as an actual policy proposal. 51% of voters in this poll from last week reported that they knew “a lot” or “some” about the Green New Deal, whereas in the YPCCC poll from December 82% of voters had never heard of it.
In that time, Republicans have had an opportunity to convince their constituents why they should oppose a measure that in principle a lot of Republicans may have thought sounded like a good idea.
However, descriptions of the Green New Deal in both polls focused on the clean energy aspects, with less attention paid to the broad array of radical social/economic programs that are included in the resolution, including an employment guarantee, a single-payer health program and an investigation into a universal basic income.
This does not mean that Republicans have developed any compelling alternative. A slimmer majority of voters reported that they support the “Green Real Deal”, an alternative proposal presented by Republican Matt Gaetz (R) focused on carbon capture and low- and zero-emissions resources. They also didn’t know as much about it.
4) Energy is not the top issue for the vast majority of voters
There are many other conclusions that could be drawn from the 324-page poll, on this and a variety of other issues. But one key piece of context for the renewable energy and Green New Deal components is that energy is not the top issue for most voters, and competes with a number of other issues.
In fact, of the seven issue areas proposed, fewer respondents ranked “Energy Issues – like carbon emissions, cost of electricity/gasoline, or renewables” as their top issue than six other issues named, at only 6%. Economic issues – taxes, wages, jobs, unemployment and spending – were again at the top, with security issues coming in a relatively close second.
This is an important distinction for the backers of the Green New Deal, which frames the move to renewable energy largely around jobs and employment. However, there is also a question as to whether or not all of the radical social and economic measures in the proposal are a complement to or detraction from the energy transition component.