Center for American Progress

RELEASE: Ahead of White House’s Denver Meeting, New Poll Shows Americans Disapprove of President Trump’s Changes to NEPA
Press Release

RELEASE: Ahead of White House’s Denver Meeting, New Poll Shows Americans Disapprove of President Trump’s Changes to NEPA

Washington, D.C. — A majority of Americans disapprove of a new proposal from President Donald Trump to weaken environmental protections and restrict public input in major infrastructure and energy development projects such as pipelines, according to a new poll by Hart Research Associates on behalf of the Center for American Progress. The poll also shows that the American public gives low marks to Trump’s overall handling of the environment.

“Not only do Americans overwhelmingly disapprove of Trump’s handling of the environment, but his attempt to weaken the National Environmental Policy Act demonstrates his hostility to protecting the environment and people’s health,” said Geoff Garin, president of Hart Research Associates. “Today’s poll shows that the public is opposed to Trump’s changes to NEPA that would allow companies to complete their own environmental reviews, limit the public’s input into the review process, and eliminate the consideration of how these projects affect our climate.”

Today’s poll finds that the Trump administration’s proposed changes to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) announced in January are extremely unpopular with voters across the political spectrum—even when tested against arguments in favor of reducing environmental regulation to speed the construction of infrastructure projects. Voters strongly support that NEPA protects the air and water and requires public input, and they fear that the Trump administration’s proposed changes will put corporate polluters first while restricting community voices.

“Americans across the political spectrum deserve a voice before seeing a bulldozer in their backyard building a highway or pipeline—and they don’t look kindly on undemocratic efforts like this to take away their chance to weigh in,” said Christy Goldfuss, CAP senior vice president of Energy and Environment and former managing director of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. “From the first moments of this announcement to limited public hearings and a dramatically shortened comment period, this process has been a sham tilted in favor of corporations while silencing the American people. Burying our heads in the sand will not prevent the raging wildfires or stronger storms caused by the climate change that Trump’s administration is blatantly denying with this proposal.”

Trump’s proposed changes would remove any analysis of climate impacts, ignore indirect effects of federal actions, allow blatant conflicts of interest in environmental review, and create loopholes for polluting industries to exploit and to remove public comment.  Tomorrow, Trump’s White House Council on Environmental Quality, led by Chair Mary Neumayr, will host its first of just two public meetings on the proposed rule in Denver.

Some key findings from the poll:

  • 80 percent of all respondents say they have a favorable reaction to NEPA once described, including large majorities of Democrats (88 percent), independents (76 percent) and Republicans (74 percent).
  • The public likes NEPA because:
    • “It ensures that federal agencies evaluate the impact of proposed projects on local air and water quality.” (88 percent favorable, 63 percent very favorable)
    • “It requires federal agencies to evaluate the degree to which proposed projects affect public health and safety in nearby communities.” (87 percent favorable, 64 percent favorable)
    • “It makes sure the public has a chance to review and give input on major projects before building and development starts.” (87 percent favorable, 57 percent favorable)
  • There is broad opposition to the Trump administration’s proposed changes to NEPA. A majority of respondents (55 percent) are unfavorable to the Trump administration’s proposed changes that would “weaken current environmental protections and public notification requirements to speed up the construction of major infrastructure and energy development projects.”
  • Respondents are most opposed to provisions that would: allow conflicts of interest by allowing corporations and industries to conduct their own reviews of the environmental impact of their projects rather than requiring independent federal government oversight and review; take communities out of the review process by limiting the amount of input from the public for infrastructure or energy development projects, including from residents in nearby and surrounding communities; and eliminate the requirement that federal agencies consider the climate change impacts of proposed projects.

These findings are based on a nationally representative online survey of 1,000 registered voters nationwide, conducted from January, 21 to January 26, 2020. The sample is demographically and geographically representative of the electorate and consistent with the political dispositions of voters nationally, including in terms of the 2016 vote.

Review the survey results here: “New Poll: Americans Disapprove of President Trump’s Changes to NEPA”

Additional resources:

For more information or to speak with an expert, please contact Ari Drennen at [email protected] or 202-741-6372.