Solar is as popular as apple pie (but some folks still prefer pecan)


The Pew Research Center published its annual study of American perceptions on climate, energy, and environmental issues. The report broadly found bipartisan, Gen Z, and Millennial preferences for environmental activism.

It found that most Americans support an expansion of solar and wind generation, a cleaner environment for future generations, as well as locally available, affordable renewable energy and the jobs that go along with it.

And, while support for solar and wind remains strong, the support among certain demographics has recently declined.

The report found that expansion of solar and wind is favored by large majorities of U.S. adults. However, support for both soar and wind was down since last year’s poll (in which solar was soaring at 90%).

The poll also found that support increased for nuclear and fossil power. Notably, 50% of the nation’s population approved of the expansion of nuclear power.

Party affiliation split

But these are only the broad numbers. When Pew accounted for political leanings (Republican/leaning Republican, Democratic/leaning Democratic), and age (Gen Z, Millennial, Gen X, and Boomer and older), clear demarcations arose.

For instance, Gen Z Democrats – at 60% – were 10 times more likely favor a complete phase out of fossil fuels than Boomers and older Republicans, at 6%.

Predictably, when it comes to phasing out gas and diesel cars, Gen Z was over 5 times as likely to approve – at 73% – than older Republicans – at 14%. Even the statement that the “U.S. should prioritize developing alternative energy” – which 71% of adults agreed with – showed a 50%+ difference in response between the political left and right.

Here it might be interesting to note that while Millennials represent the largest generation in the U.S., the “Boomers and older” category actually spans three generations, and was the largest group in the Pew survey.

When it came to solar and wind power specifically, a large majority of Americans “favor more,” according to the report. Solar topped the charts at greater than two-third support across all ages and political groups. No other energy source had such a high level of support.

However, Republican support for solar and wind has been waning since 2016, with a 13-15 point decline over the past two years.

The research offered no insight into why the trend had occurred.

However, even with this decline, solar power still has broad support on both sides of the political spectrum: about the same as apple pie (polls came out nice and toasty at 92% support in recent polling by Crisco and the American Pie Council).

In contrast to the near universal support for solar power, the question of whether “stricter environmental laws and regulations” were worth the cost resulted in clear partisan separation. Fully 81% of Democrats thought it was worth the economic costs, while 71% of Republicans responded that regulations cost too many jobs and would hurt the economy.

Not in her backyard

One revealing takeaway is that while almost half of Americans said they believe they are doing enough to combat climate change, their opinions regarding other Americans were not so charitable. Of those polled, 66% said that they believe other Americans are not doing enough.

And, when it came to the work that environmental advocacy groups do, about the same percentage said that advocates are doing too much as those who said they are doing too little.

Americans clearly seem to think that politicians, energy companies, and large corporations have to do more.

When asked, “what to do,” about half of the respondents said that major lifestyle changes will be needed to deal with climate change impact. The other half said that it’s more likely that new developments in technology will address the problems caused by climate change.

And there was broad disagreement on whether those actions should be driven by government or individual choice.

Among the many pieces of legislation President Biden has proposed, at least three showed support, including among three-quarters of those surveyed who said they agree with a requirement that electric utilities use more sources of renewable energy.

A positive political feedback loop may be found here. First, Americans believe Biden’s infrastructure plan will generate clean energy jobs. Second, Americans seem to like the idea of clean local energy jobs. And, last they prefer the clean energy that goes along with creating those jobs.

This synergy is surely a recipe for deploying massive quantities of wind and solar.

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