National Poll Shows the Public Wants EPA to Do More to Reduce Air Pollution

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National Poll Shows the Public Wants EPA to Do More to Reduce Air Pollution

WASHINGTON – As big polluters and their allies in Congress continue attacks on the Clean Air Act, the American Lung Association released a new bipartisan survey examining public views of the Clean Air Act and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) efforts to update and enforce lifesaving clean air standards, including carbon and mercury emissions from power plants.

The bipartisan survey, conducted by Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and Republican firm Perception Insight, finds that nearly three-quarters of likely voters (73 percent) nationwide support the view that it is possible to protect public health through stronger air quality standards while achieving a healthy economy, over the notion that we must choose between public health or a strong economy. This overwhelming support includes 78 percent of independents, 60 percent of Republicans and 62 percent of conservatives, as well as significant support in Maine, Pennsylvania and Ohio.

The Obama Administration will soon release updated clean air standards for carbon pollution emitted by power plants, and a substantial majority of voters support the EPA implementing these standards, even after hearing opposing arguments that stricter standards will damage the economic recovery.  Initially, 72 percent of voters nationwide support the new protections on carbon emissions from power plants, including overwhelming majorities of both Democrats and independents and a majority of Republicans.

After listening to a balanced debate with messages both for and against setting new carbon standards, support still remained robust with a near 2-to-1 margin (63 percent in favor and 33 percent opposed). Support remained especially robust in Maine and Pennsylvania (64 percent in each state). The majority of Ohio voters (52 percent) also favored new carbon standards, which is notable since the poll was conducted during a period of heavy media attention concerning statewide electricity rate increases and potential power plant shutdowns.

“This bipartisan poll affirms that clean air protections have broad support across the political spectrum,” said Peter Iwanowicz, Assistant Vice President, National Policy and Advocacy with the American Lung Association. “Big polluters and their allies in Congress cannot ignore the facts; more air pollution means more childhood asthma attacks, more illness and more people dying prematurely. It’s time polluters and their Congressional allies drop their attempts to weaken, block or delay clean air protections and listen to the public who overwhelmingly wants the EPA to do more to protect the air we breathe.”

Voters also voiced strong support for stricter standards to control industrial and power sector mercury and toxic air pollution. When asked about setting stricter limits on the amount of mercury that power plants and other facilities emit, 78 percent of likely voters were in favor of the EPA updating these standards.

Strong support was also seen for stricter standards on industrial boilers. Initially, 69 percent of voters supported the EPA implementing stricter standards on boiler emissions. After hearing messaging from both sides of the issue, voters continued to support these standards by nearly a 20-point margin (56 percent favor, 37 percent oppose).

Key poll findings include:

  • Nearly three quarters (73 percent) of voters, say that we do not have to choose between air quality and a strong economy – we can achieve both
  • 2-to-1 majority (60 to 31 percent) believe that strengthening safeguards against pollution will create, rather than destroy, jobs by encouraging innovation
  • About two-thirds of voters (66 percent) favor EPA updating air pollution standards by setting stricter limits
  • 72 percent of voters support new standards for carbon pollution from power plants and support is strong (63 percent) after hearing arguments from both sides of the issue
  • 60 percent of voters support stricter standards for gasoline and limits on the amount of tailpipe emissions from cars and SUVs (particularly strong given all the recent attention to high gasoline prices).

Despite more than a year’s worth of continued attacks on clean air protections from big corporate polluters and their allies in Congress, voters across the political spectrum view the Clean Air Act very positively; with a 2-to-1 favorable to unfavorable ratio. At the same time, feelings toward Congress continue to drop, especially among Democrats and independents. Just 18 percent of voters nationally give Congress a favorable rating, while 56 percent rate Congress unfavorable.  The unfavorable rating of Congress is up 9 percent since the American Lung Association’s last survey released in June 2011.

“The survey clearly indicates that voters reject the notion that we have to choose between strong safeguards against air pollution and economic growth,” said Andrew Bauman, Vice President at Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research. “In fact, voters overwhelmingly believe that stronger safeguards against air pollution will create jobs in America.”

“The poll does show there is broad support across partisan lines for new carbon regulations on power plants,” said Marc DelSignore, President of Perception Insight. “However, there is a significant difference in the views regarding the impact regulations may have on the economy, with Republicans expressing higher concern for possible job loss and rising energy prices than Democrats or independents.”

The full survey, along with slides and a memo from Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and Perception Insight may be found here.

Methodology: The survey was conducted for the American Lung Association by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and Perception Insight. The firms conducted a national survey of 2,000 likely 2012 voters, including oversamples of 400 likely voters each in the following states: Maine, Ohio and Pennsylvania. The survey was conducted February 27- March 4, 2012. The margin of error for the full national sample is 3.5%. For each oversample region, it is approximately 4.9% depending on sample size.



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