Californians say their top environmental issue is water supply and drought, and most are unhappy with efforts by the state and their own communities to respond. While residents link drought and wildfires to climate change, they support only certain policies meant to address the problem. In a recent presentation, survey analyst Deja Thomas shared these and other findings from the latest PPIC survey on Californians and the environment and discussed insights from the report with survey analyst Rachel Lawler.
“In the context of a continuing drought and record-low reservoirs, both of which have likely affected the day-to-day lives of Californians, most adults say that water supply is at least somewhat of a problem.” Thomas said. Majorities feel that the state and local government, and the people in their part of California, are not doing enough to address the drought. Yet many Californians say they’ve made some effort to reduce water use.
Furthermore, amid the historic drought and another intense season of wildfires, Californians worry that the effects of climate change are bringing on more severe events. “More than three in four adults believe climate change has contributed to the state’s current drought as well as to recent wildfires,” Lawler said. “Majorities across regions and demographic groups say this—so this is a very common and widespread belief among Californians.”
Californians favor some state policies meant to address climate change—but not all of them. There is overwhelming support for requiring the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to below 1990 levels by 2030 as well as for requiring 100% of the state’s electricity to come from renewable sources by the year 2045. About 6 in 10 likely voters support a ban on new fracking permits by 2024; just under half support Governor Newsom’s executive order to ban gas-powered cars by 2035.
A closer look at partisan support for these proposals reveals that Republicans and Democrats are deeply divided on all of the state’s climate change policies—and on whether California should prioritize developing renewable sources of energy or prioritize expanding production of oil, coal, and natural gas. “We’re seeing an increasing divide in views,” Thomas said. “Today, majorities of Democrats and independents would favor alternative energy while six in ten Republicans favor fossil fuels.”
However, when PPIC asked Californians about their willingness to pay more for electricity generated by renewable sources such as solar and wind energy, 44% of adults were willing to pay more, and 55% were not. This is a reversal from 2016, when 56% were willing and 40% were not.
Despite reluctance to pay extra for renewable energy sources, Californians do express widespread support for allowing wind power and wave energy off the coast. Thomas indicated that 81% of adults are in favor, with overwhelming support across demographic groups and regions.
“On a topic where this is so much division,” Lawler said, referring to debates over energy supply, “this is one area where there is agreement. It could be a good starting point for people in California to build consensus on issues.”