An expansive new poll on environmental attitudes suggests that despite the recession, Californians are holding fast to their environmental priorities.
Among the findings in the report released this week by the non-partisan Public Policy Institute of California is that support for the state’s climate change strategy remains strong, even in the face of a well-financed campaign against the law known as AB 32. Two-thirds (67%) of the respondents support the 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act, aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions in California–about the same level as when PPIC polled the question last year.
What’s different this year, though, is that opponents of AB 32 are ramping up a statewide campaign to suspend the act’s regulations until the state unemployment rate drops to 5.5% or less and remains there for a year. It’s currently more than 12%. The question will appear on the November ballot as Proposition 23.
The PPIC poll did not ask directly about Prop 23, as the measure was not yet officially titled when the polling began earlier this month. Proponents of Prop 23 have filed suit against the state, claiming that the planned ballot description overstates the measure’s intent. The current language was chosen by Attorney General (and gubernatorial candidate) Jerry Brown, who supports AB 32.
According to PPIC President Mark Baldassare, the state’s climate legislation could become a key issue in the campaign for the statehouse between Brown and Republican Meg Whitman:
“I think there’s no question that the fight over AB 32 will be a major factor,” Baldassare told me in an interview today. “People will be looking at the candidate’s position on climate change because there are major issues at stake, certainly for California and AB32 and its implementation–but also in Congress and what Congress might do next with energy policy or climate change policy.”
Brown opposes Prop 23. Whitman has not declared herself on the measure but still supports a one-year suspension of the law, under a provision of AB 32 itself. For a look at Whitman’s evolving position on AB 32, see the recent blog post by KQED News capitol correspondent John Myers.
In this month’s survey, PPIC found that nearly three in four Californians (73%) consider “global warming” to be either a “serious” (29%) or “very serious” (44%) threat to “the economy and quality of life for California’s future,” though opinion was divided along party lines, with Republicans less convinced. Sixty percent of all adults surveyed think that the effects of global warming have started (54%) or will be seen within the next “few years” (6%).
A large majority surveyed (76%) support government regulation of greenhouse gases, and nearly six in ten (57%) favor California’s state government having its own policies, “separate from the federal government.”
Perhaps the greatest common ground revealed in the poll was when respondents rallied around the state’s requirement to make greater use of renewable energy. Eighty-five percent of respondents said they favored that approach to curb global warming; 92% of Democrats, 69% of Republicans and 87% of independent voters.
“What we know is that California historically has been a state in which voters are, if anything, leaders more than followers on environmental issues compared to the national electorate,” said Baldassare. “They’re deeply concerned about environmental issues…not just in California but worldwide…and I think they will expect their candidates will show equal attention to that.”
The complete report is available at the PPIC website.