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Center for American Progress

Americans Urgently Want Action on Energy Independence and Global Warming

Americans Urgently Want Action on Energy Independence and Global Warming

New poll shows Americans think the issue of energy independence and global warming is one of the biggest priorities for our nation’s leaders.

After a year when public education and media coverage saturated classrooms, theaters, and television screens and energy alternative advocacy permeated the Web, there is new evidence that points us not only to support for solutions but also toward new signs of the expediency with which Americans want their leaders in Congress to take this issue on. From Al Gore and Davis Guggenheim’s Oscar win for “An Inconvenient Truth” to the thousands who participated in “Step It Up” events last week in advocacy of carbon emissions reductions and the “Live Earth” global warming concerts planned for July 7th on every continent, activists have been joined now by other Americans who, as evidenced by a new poll, clearly believe that the issue of energy independence and global warming is one of the biggest priorities for our nation’s leaders.

A poll for the Center for American Progress conducted by GreenbergQuinlanRosner Research found that a majority of Americans look to Washington for meaningful and timely action.

Among the most important findings:

  • Americans want freedom and self sufficiency from our energy policies;
  • Americans, in the tradition of our “can-do” spirit, believe we should be leading the world in clean, alternative energy. If the political will exists, they believe we can do anything;
  • Americans want accountability. They want their leaders to show they will do the right thing, put money to good use and act accordingly themselves;
  • They see clean energy as a path to economic growth and new jobs;
  • Democrats, Independents, and Republicans believe the evidence of global warming is now clear and only strengthens the case for immediate action on energy independence; and,
  • Americans overwhelmingly support vigorous standards for clean alternative energy technologies and better mileage. They also support a cap and reduction on global warming pollution.

This public urgency is consistent with the scientific urgency illustrated by the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports that determined that human activity causes global warming and that climate change will put humans and our planet at real risk if left unchecked.

In January, the House made a down payment on clean energy alternatives such as wind and solar energy by redirecting federal tax breaks and subsidies for big oil companies to investments in clean energy. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have laid the groundwork for what should be a bipartisan approach to addressing the public and scientific urgency – meeting the challenge they have set for Congress is critical. The House is on a fast track to adopt solutions to these pressing problems and plans to consider additional pieces of the solution in July and this fall. The Senate has now laid plans to debate clean alternative energy proposals in May.

This new poll demonstrates that legislators can support clean alternative energy and limits on global warming pollution with the confidence that the American people will enthusiastically applaud such efforts. Conversely, the public will disapprove of inaction or efforts that expand our reliance on conventional fuels or create more global warming pollution. As we approach Earth Day this Sunday, we urge you to enunciate support and swift, meaningful action to make America become self-sufficient in its energy use and create new jobs in the process. We should demand that our leaders show global leadership on this crucial issue, and we must hold them accountable for making it happen. Scientists aren’t the only ones urging our leaders to take action on global warming—the American public demands it, too.

Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research

April 17, 2007

Americans Feel New Urgency on Energy Independence and Global Warming

To: Interested Parties

From: Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research


New Urgency for Action on Energy Independence, Global Warming

A new survey by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research for the Center for American Progress shows a heightened demand among Americans for immediate action to tackle global warming and achieve energy independence. Most telling, Americans are demanding clean, alternative energy and they want their leadership to act now to change our energy policies to put the country on the right path. The public wants major change that quickly moves the country toward energy independence. Americans believe this will be a boon for the economy, will create jobs, and that America should lead the way. As this survey demonstrates, the public debate over whether global warming is here and whether it is caused by humans is settled. Americans now want immediate action.

Americans are deeply dissatisfied with the current energy policies and now believe America has fallen behind the rest of the world on energy. Concern about energy and global warming now rivals health care as the top domestic issue that requires immediate action. Americans believe reducing dependence on oil and coal to stop global warming is one of the most important challenges our country faces (29 percent) on par with bringing down rising health care costs (32 percent) and well ahead of other issues.

  • Case closed: global warming evident and caused primarily by human actions. More than three-quarters (76 percent) of people believe the effects of global warming are apparent now, including 50 percent who strongly believe this[1]—a 7-point increase since November 2005[2]. Sixty-one percent believe that global warming is caused more by human actions than by naturally occurring forces, while just 34 percent believe global warming is caused more by nature. Forty-five percent strongly agree that human actions are primarily responsible for global warming[3], which represents an 8-point increase in the past 16 months.
  • Americans want immediate action on global warming. A solid majority, 60 percent, believes that the increasing pollution of the past few decades has set global warming into motion and “we must take action now or it will be too late to stop it.” Only 33 percent hold that the effects will not occur for decades and we have some time before we must take action to stop global warming.[4]
  • Americans of all political persuasions want to act now to stop global warming and become energy independent. Unlike other issues before Congress and the President—such as the Iraq war—there is no strong partisan divide on stopping global warming. Huge majorities of Independents (59 percent) and Democrats (76 percent) support action now along with a significant bloc of Republicans (41 percent).

Americans Do Not Want to Wait for Clean, Alternative Energy

Americans want action on energy and global warming and they believe our country’s current policies are off track. Only 27 percent of people feel that our energy policy is headed in the right direction, while 65 percent say our energy policy is seriously off on the wrong track. Moreover, a majority of Americans (52 percent) believes the United States is either falling or has fallen far behind other countries in developing clean, alternative energy. Only 14 percent of people believe we lead the world in developing these technologies.[5]

With the public expressing grave concerns that energy independence and global warming are major problems that face our country, Americans believe we need to act immediately to move toward clean alternative energy.

Americans Want Immediate Action on Clean, Alternative Energy

Americans Ready to Move Away From Oil and Coal as Fuel Sources

Americans view alternative energy and more efficient cars not only as a means for energy independence and reducing global warming, but also as economic boons.

  • By a whopping 79 – 17 percent margin, people believe that shifting to new, alternative energy production will help America’s economy and create jobs, not cost American jobs.
  • By a 22-point margin, 57 – 35 percent, Americans believe raising car and truck mileage standards will save, not cost, people money.[6]

Strong Support for Four Proposals

Mirroring recent public data on this issue,[7] this survey shows strong public support for a series of proposals to move to clean, alternative energy, institute higher mileage standards for automobiles, and cap carbon emissions from industry to tackle our dependence on oil and stop global warming. These proposals receive bipartisan support, highlighting the consensus around the nation that Washington should take action now to improve our energy policy. This survey illustrates that support for these proposals is sufficiently robust to withstand attacks (the questions provided critiques of the proposals).

Support for these proposals exists among Democrats, Independents, and Republicans. For example, 60 percent of Republicans favor raising mileage standards, nearly equaling the 67 percent of Democrats who do as well (74 percent of Independents favor this proposal). On making 25 percent of our electricity come from alternative sources by the year 2025, 64 percent of Democrats favor the proposal, followed closely by 60 percent of Republicans (a staggering 71 percent of Independents favor this approach).

Support for Clean Energy Proposals Holds Up Despite Attacks From Critics

Click for larger image

This survey of 1000 registered voters was conducted March 19 – 22 by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research. The sample has a margin of error of approximately + 3.1 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.


[1] This question was asked of 500 respondents

[2] Comparison taken from a November, 2005 survey of 1001 likely voters conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research for the Natural Resources Defense Council

[3] This question was asked of 500 respondents

[4] This question was asked of 500 respondents

[5] This question was asked of 679 respondents

[6] These questions were asked of 500 respondents

[7] The Gallup Organization surveyed 1009 adults from March 11-14, 2007 on environmental and energy policy issues

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Daniel J. Weiss

Senior Fellow

Laura Nichols

Senior Fellow