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The Drought and Californians’ Views on Climate Policy

David Kordus August 28, 2015
SmoggyLA

The California Legislature is considering bills that would expand state efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions. One, SB 32, would require that California reduce emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. Another, SB 350, would require that petroleum use in cars be reduced by 50 percent, half of the state’s electricity come from renewable energy sources, and buildings double their energy efficiency—all by 2030.

Our July statewide survey examined support for the goals of these bills. We found that strong majorities of Californians favored each of these proposals but that support varied among partisans, with Democrats and independents more likely than Republicans to be in favor. However, a closer look reveals that party registration is not the only driver of these views.

Within the parties and among independents, registered voters who think global warming has contributed to the drought are far more likely to support the ideas in these bills than those who don’t. Among Republicans, solid majorities of those who think global warming has contributed to the drought also support SB 32 and SB 350. Meanwhile, among Democrats and independents who do not think global warming has contributed to the drought, support for SB 350 drops to about half or less.

By the same token, Californians who think climate change is having an impact today are more likely to support these policies than those who don’t think it will have an impact until sometime in the future—and much more likely than those who think climate change will never have an impact.

These findings suggest that Californians who make a connection between climate change and their daily lives are much more likely to support policies to address it. They also suggest that attitudes toward ambitious climate and energy goals are not simply partisan, but that they are related to individual beliefs about the impact of climate change.

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