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RELEASE: New Research Finds Public Opinion Stacked Against Anti-Environmental Agenda of New Congress

Washington, D.C. — A national public opinion poll released today by the Center for American Progress finds that the most prominent energy and anti-environmental proposals that are expected to be debated in the new Congress face intense, widespread, and bipartisan opposition among voters across the country.

Nearly two-thirds of voters who voted for President-elect Donald Trump, for example, oppose the idea of privatizing or selling off some areas of America’s national forests and public lands. Furthermore, three in five voters in 2018 Senate battleground states oppose taking away the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to set carbon pollution limits on power plants.

The telephone survey of 1,002 registered voters who voted in the 2016 presidential election was conducted from December 2 to December 6 by Hart Research Associates, a leading national public opinion research firm.

“Voters are deeply divided on many issues, but when it comes to clean energy and the environment, overwhelming majorities want to preserve or expand protections for clean air, clean water, public lands, and at-risk wildlife,” said Geoffrey Garin, president of Hart Research Associates. “Voters will likely respond with skepticism or downright hostility if Congress or the new administration moves to weaken environmental protections, make climate change worse, or threaten public health.”

In the survey, voters expressed a higher level of support for environmental and clean energy priorities than for fossil fuel priorities. Approximately three in four voters said that protecting and maintaining national parks, public lands, and natural places should be a “very important” goal for the federal government. Likewise, two in three others said that increasing use of clean, renewable energy and saving at-risk wildlife from extinction should be “very important” goals. Only 38 percent of voters said that increasing fossil fuel energy sources should be a very important goal for the government, while barely one in four voters placed a high priority on increasing oil and gas production on public lands.

“Congressional Republicans and the incoming Trump administration are preparing to push the most anti-environmental agenda in a generation, but public opinion is stacked against proposals that would harm public health, lands, and wildlife,” said Matt Lee-Ashley, CAP Senior Fellow. “Despite the extraordinary sell-out of cabinet positions and congressional priorities to special interests that we are witnessing, Americans’ support for clean energy and the environment can help slow or stop the anti-environmental interests of the new Congress.”

The research released today finds that supporters of clean energy and conservation can most effectively defend policy gains made in recent years by describing the impacts of an anti-environmental agenda in Congress and emphasizing the extent to which these proposals are intended to benefit special interests at the expense of the public. Four in five Americans, for example, are concerned that anti-environmental proposals in Congress would contaminate drinking water or release hazardous chemicals. Nearly three in four voters were concerned about prominent energy and anti-environmental proposals causing increased air pollution.

For the survey results, click here. For a memo on the poll, click here. For a slide presentation on the topline results, click here.

For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, contact Tom Caiazza at tcaiazza@americanprogress.org or 202.481.7141.