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State’s Climate Change Actions Get Majority Support, Though Most Expect Gas Prices to Rise

Big Rise in Approval Ratings for Brown, Legislature on Environmental Issues

SAN FRANCISCO, July 26, 2017—Majorities of Californians favor state policies to address global warming, including the law mandating statewide reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Most adults and half of likely voters favor the state’s cap-and-trade program. Residents support steps to reduce warming even though most expect the result will be higher gasoline prices. These are among the key findings of a statewide survey released today by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC).

Strong majorities of California adults (72%) and likely voters (66%) favor the state law passed last year that requires the state to reduce emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2030. Overwhelming majorities of Democrats (84%) and independents (71%) and 42 percent of Republicans support the law. Majorities across the state’s regions and racial/ethnic groups are in favor.

Half of Californians believe that the state’s actions to reduce global warming will result in more jobs in the future (22% fewer jobs, 19% no effect on jobs). Among likely voters, 49 percent say the result will be more jobs. The share of Californians who express this view is the highest since PPIC first asked the question in 2010. At the same time, most Californians (54% adults, 54% likely voters) say the state’s actions to reduce warming will cause gasoline prices to increase.

While the survey was being conducted, the legislature voted to extend the state’s cap-and-trade system until 2030. Most Californians (56%) say they have heard nothing about the system, in which the state enforces emissions “caps” by issuing permits that can be traded among companies at quarterly auctions. After hearing a short description of the system, 56 percent of adults and 49 percent of likely voters are in favor—a high point for support since PPIC began asking about cap and trade in 2009. Most Democrats (60%) and independents (54%) and 32 percent of Republicans favor cap and trade.

“There is broad consensus for the state’s efforts to address climate change, and many support the cap-and-trade system,” said Mark Baldassare, PPIC president and CEO. “Most Democrats and independents and sizable percentages of Republicans are in favor.”

The survey describes how cap-and-trade revenues are spent—on affordable housing near public transit, energy efficiency, high speed rail, and public transit—and gives a Legislative Analyst Office estimate that cap and trade will add 15 cents per gallon of gasoline by 2021. Given this additional information, 60 percent of adults and 51 percent of likely voters favor the state’s efforts to reduce emissions through cap and trade. Across party lines, 68 percent of Democrats, 52 percent of independents, and 28 percent of Republicans are in favor. Most Californians (54%) and 46 percent of likely voters also say it is very important to them that some of the cap-and-trade revenues are spent on projects to improve environmental conditions in lower-income and disadvantaged communities.

Californians also support expanding the state’s goals for generating electricity from renewable energy sources such as solar or wind power. State law currently requires that 50 percent of electricity come from renewable sources by 2030. The legislature is considering requiring that 100 percent of electricity come from renewable sources by 2045. Overwhelming majorities (76% adults, 71% likely voters) are in favor, as are majorities across parties.

Half of Californians (51% adults, 48% likely voters) say that to reduce global warming, they are willing to pay more for electricity if it is generated by renewable sources. Most Democrats (60%) are willing to pay more, compared to fewer than half of independents (45%) and 30 percent of Republicans.

Baldassare summed up views on state actions to address global warming: “A record-high percentage of Californians believe that the state’s climate change and energy policies will lead to more jobs, while many residents are willing to live with higher electricity and gasoline costs.”

Support for Offshore Drilling Falls to New Low
On another energy issue, support for more drilling off the California coast has dropped to a record low. Just 25 percent of Californians are in favor, while 69 percent are opposed. Support has fallen by 11 percentage points since July 2016 (36% favor, 59% oppose). Fewer than a third of residents across all major regions of the state favor more drilling. Most Democrats (81%) and independents (68%) and 45 percent of Republicans are opposed. Across regions, opposition is highest in the north and central coast (74% in coastal counties from San Luis Obispo to Del Norte and all counties in the San Francisco Bay Area) and somewhat lower in the inland counties (64%).

In contrast, 73 percent of Californians are in favor of wind power and wave energy projects off the state’s coast, while 19 percent are opposed. Large majorities across parties and regions and across age, education, income, and racial/ethnic groups favor wind and wave energy projects.

Few Favor Trump’s Exit from Paris Accord
When asked their views on President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, few Californians (22% adults, 29% likely voters) support it. Most Democrats (86%) and independents (68%) and a third of Republicans (32%) are opposed.

Most Californians (66%) favor the state government making its own policies—separate from the federal government—to address global warming. A majority (58%) also say it’s very important to them that California act as a world leader in efforts to fight climate change (23% somewhat important, 7% not too important, 11% not important at all). Most (58%) say warming is a very serious threat to California’s future economy and quality of life, and 66 percent say the effects of warming have already begun.

Trump, Congress Get Low Ratings—State Leaders Fare Much Better
Just 25 percent of adults and 34 percent of likely voters approve of the way the president is handling his job, and his approval ratings for handling environmental issues are similar (22% adults, 31% likely voters).

“President Trump’s low job approval ratings are matched by equally low approval for his handling of environmental issues and strong opposition to withdrawing from the Paris climate change agreement,” Baldassare said.

Although Trump’s overall job approval ratings are low, he has strong majority support among Republicans (68%). In contrast, Congress’ job approval ratings (24% adults, 17% likely voters) are low across parties (19% Democrats, 26% Republicans, 23% independents). Californians give Congress low ratings on environmental issues (26% adults, 21% likely voters), and these ratings are also low across parties (17% Democrats, 27% Republicans, 28% independents).

In contrast to Californians’ views of the president, majorities (53% adults, 52% likely voters) approve of Governor Brown’s job performance. His ratings for handling environmental issues (51% adults, 53% likely voters) are similar and have increased since he took office in 2011—by 16 points among adults and 17 points among likely voters (35% adults, 36% likely voters in July 2011). Half of Californians (50% adults, 45% likely voters) approve of the legislature’s job performance. They approve of the legislature’s handling of environmental issues in similar numbers (51% adults, 49% likely voters). The legislature’s ratings on environmental issues have increased by 20 points since 2011 among all adults (31%) and 25 points among likely voters (24%).

Most Favor Desalination Plants
Although the drought officially ended this year, most Californians say the supply of water in their part of the state is a big problem (37%) or somewhat of a problem (27%). Last July, 62 percent said water supply was a big problem. Across regions today, residents in the Inland Empire (46%) and Central Valley (44%) are the most likely to say that the water supply is a big problem in their region. Within the Central Valley, 51 percent of San Joaquin Valley residents say water supply is a big problem in their region (Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Merced, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, and Tulare Counties).

Asked about their views on building desalination plants on the coast, 67 percent of adults are in favor, including majorities across parties and regions and across age, education, income, and racial/ethnic groups. When it comes to water conservation, 52 percent say their local governments are doing the right amount (38% not enough, 6% too much).

“In the wake of the historic drought, most Californians favor building desalination plants on the California coast, and most think that their local government is doing enough to conserve water,” Baldassare said.

Residents Place High Value on Ocean, Beaches
In response to one of several questions about the state’s ocean and beaches, an overwhelming majority of residents say pollution is a big problem (46%) or somewhat of a problem (37%). These views are in line with residents’ opinions that the condition of the ocean and beaches is very important to them personally (71%) as well as to the economy and quality of life for the state’s future (73%). Most (72%) say they visit a state beach at least several times a year. The survey also asks Californians about the importance of other issues along their part of the coast:

  • Contamination of fish and seafood: 46 percent say it is a big problem.
  • Declining marine life: 45 percent say it is a big problem.
  • Limited public access to the coast and beaches: 18 percent say it is a big problem.

LA Residents Most Likely to View Air Pollution as Big Problem
When asked about air pollution in their part of the state, 24 percent of Californians say it is a big problem, while 38 percent say it is somewhat of a problem. Los Angeles residents are the most likely to say air pollution is a big problem (39%). Residents of Orange/San Diego and the San Francisco Bay Area are the least likely (17% each). In the Central Valley as a whole, 24 percent say air pollution is a big problem, while 34 percent express this view in the eight-county San Joaquin Valley.

Most state residents (55%) say air pollution is a more serious health threat in lower-income areas than elsewhere in their part of California. And Californians overwhelmingly (79%) favor the idea of empowering local air districts to require that industries curb emissions of air pollutants. Majorities across parties express this view.

About the Survey
This PPIC Statewide Survey was conducted with funding from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Dirk and Charlene Kabcenell Foundation, the Flora Family Foundation, and the Heising-Simons Foundation. Findings are based on a telephone survey of 1,708 California adult residents, including 1,110 interviewed on cell phones and 598 interviewed on landline telephones. Interviews took place from July 9–18, 2017. Interviews were conducted in English or Spanish, according to respondents’ preferences.

The sampling error, taking design effects from weighting into consideration, is ±3.4 percent for all adults, ±3.8 percent for the 1,409 registered voters, and ±4.3 percent for the 1,095 likely voters. For the 1,321 adults asked question 8a (local regulation of air pollution) and question 20b (price ceiling for cap and trade permits) from July 11–18, the sampling error is ±3.9 percent. More information on methodology begins on page 23.

Mark Baldassare is president and CEO of PPIC, where he holds the Arjay and Frances Fearing Miller Chair in Public Policy. He is founder of the PPIC Statewide Survey, which he has directed since 1998.

The Public Policy Institute of California is dedicated to informing and improving public policy in California through independent, objective, nonpartisan research. We are a public charity. We do not take or support positions on any ballot measure or on any local, state, or federal legislation, nor do we endorse, support, or oppose any political parties or candidates for public office. Research publications reflect the views of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of our funders or of the staff, officers, advisory councils, or board of directors of the Public Policy Institute of California.

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