As contenders suit up for the coming presidential election, what will be the issues on voters’ minds when they head to the ballot boxes? One will likely be the environment, suggests a poll released last week: The vast majority of Americans believe that the government has a responsibility to combat climate change.
The poll, conducted by the New York Times, Stanford University, and environmental research group Resources for the Future, found that 83 percent of Americans believe that if nothing is done to reduce emissions, global warming will be a very or somewhat serious problem in the future. Even bigger news was that Americans on both sides of the aisle agreed—the vast majority of Democrats, 86 percent of independents, and 61 percent of Republicans thought emissions needed to be curbed.
Perhaps the poll’s biggest surprise was that 48 percent of Republicans said that they were less likely to vote for a candidate who said human-caused climate change is a hoax. Forty-eight percent of Republicans also said the federal government should be fighting climate change. Many Republican candidates have previously skirted the issue, but several Republican frontrunners (if one could call them that this far out) already include climate change in their agenda; Kentucky Senator Rand Paul was among the 15 Republicans who voted in favor of a Senate resolution finally admitting that climate change was man-made. (The resolution ultimately did not pass.)
Americans of both parties also favored building robust alternative energy policy. The poll found that 78 percent of Americans (87 percent of Democrats and 60 percent of Republicans) believe that the federal government should limit greenhouse gases emitted by American businesses, and 80 percent (83 percent of Democrats and 74 percent of Republicans) approved of giving corporate tax breaks for using water, wind, and solar power.
The findings come just after President Obama’s State of the Union address on Jan. 20, in which Obama pointed to the country’s accelerating alternative energy economy. The U.S. currently leads the world in the production of wind energy, in part due to the large increase in wind power installations since 2008. Wind energy is projected to increase by a projected 23 percent by 2016, while solar energy production should increase by 60 percent in the same timeframe, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Read Audubon's Birds and Climate Report.