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Press Release · July 29, 2020

Solid Majorities Support State Policies to Address Climate Change


Note: Survey results on Californians’ economic outlook, health and financial worries due to COVID-19, and views on race relations were released publicly on Monday, July 27, and are not under this embargo.

SAN FRANCISCO, July 29, 2020—Even as the state confronts the COVID-19 pandemic, public support for California’s policies to address climate change is high, with most residents approving of the state’s targets for emission reduction and renewable energy, zero-emissions policies for commercial trucks, and the cap-and-trade system. While about half or more of Californians view air and water pollution in their area as health threats, Latinos and African Americans are more likely to see such threats as serious. These are among the key findings of a statewide survey released today by the Public Policy Institute of California.

Solid majorities support key state policies that aim to address global warming. These majorities include 77 percent of Californians (76% of likely voters) approving of the state law requiring greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030; 77 percent (75% of likely voters) approving of climate change policies requiring all commercial trucks sold in California to be zero-emissions by 2045; 77 percent (74% of likely voters) approving of the law requiring all of the state’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2045; and 62 percent of adults and likely voters favoring the state’s cap-and-trade system, designed to provide an incentive for companies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“In the midst of the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis, Californians are highly supportive of the state’s policies to address global warming,” said Mark Baldassare, PPIC president and CEO.

Californians Place Greater Importance on Addressing Climate Change than Do US Residents Overall

Compared to adults nationwide, Californians place greater personal importance on addressing global warming, and most Californians are willing to change their own behavior. Most Californians say the issue of global warming is extremely important (25% adults, 28% likely voters) or very important (32% adults, 30% likely voters) to them personally. The 57 percent of Californians saying either extremely or very important is far higher than the 37 percent of US residents saying extremely or very important in an April poll from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication. Strong majorities of Californians (73% adults, 70% likely voters) say they would be willing to make major lifestyle changes to address the issue of global warming.

“Californians are more likely than Americans nationwide to say the issue of global warming is extremely or very important to them personally, and most are willing to make major lifestyle changes,” Baldassare said.

Presidential Candidates’ Environmental Views Are Important to Most Voters

About half of Californians (53% adults, 52% likely voters) say they can trust the state government just about always or most of the time to do what’s right on environmental issues in California. Far fewer (24% adults, 20% likely voters) say they can trust the federal government just about always or most of the time when it comes to environmental issues in the US.

Similarly, while solid majorities approve of Governor Newsom (69% adults, 67% likely voters) and the California Legislature (62% adults, 61% likely voters) on handling environmental issues in California, far fewer approve of President Trump (24% adults, 29% likely voters) and Congress (20% adults, 20% likely voters) on environmental issues in the US.

“When it comes to handling environmental issues, trust in the state government is much higher than the federal government, and approval of Governor Newsom and the California Legislature is much higher than President Trump and Congress,” Baldassare said.

Looking to the November election, an overwhelming share of likely voters say presidential candidates’ environmental positions are important (43% very, 40% somewhat) in determining their vote. Asked which candidate would be better on handling environmental issues in the US, 70 percent say Joe Biden and 29 percent say Donald Trump. Nearly all Democrats (97%) say Biden would be better on the environment, while most Republicans (76%) say Trump. Independents favor Biden (71% to 27%).

“Eight in ten California likely voters say the presidential candidates’ positions on the environment are important in determining their vote,” Baldassare said, “and seven in ten say that Joe Biden would do a better job than Donald Trump on environmental issues.”

Health Concerns from Pollution Are Highest for Latinos, African Americans

Nearly two-thirds of Californians say air pollution is a very serious (21%) or somewhat serious (42%) threat to their own health and the health of their immediate family in their part of the state, while almost half of Californians say polluted drinking water is a very serious (16%) or somewhat serious (31%) health threat. However, there are notable racial disparities: whites (12% air pollution, 8% polluted drinking water) are far less likely than Latinos (33% air pollution, 24% polluted drinking water) and African Americans (29% air pollution, 20% polluted drinking water) and less likely than Asian Americans (17% air pollution, 19% drinking water) to say pollution in their area is a very serious health threat.

“African Americans and Latinos are more likely than others to say that air and water pollution in their part of California are very serious health threats to themselves and their families,” Baldassare said.

Overwhelming Majorities Oppose Offshore Drilling

As the Trump administration considers developing and expanding oil and gas leasing along the Pacific coast, more than seven in ten Californians overall (73%) and across regions (73% north and central coast, 74% south coast, 71% inland) oppose more oil drilling off the California coast. Around nine in ten overall (89%) and across regions (89% north and central coast, 90% south coast, 89% inland) support maintaining existing rules and boundaries for national marine sanctuaries and marine protected areas.

“Most Californians say that the conditions of California’s oceans and beaches are important to the state’s future,” Baldassare said, “and they overwhelmingly oppose more offshore oil drilling and favor marine protected areas.”

About the Survey

The Californians and the Environment survey is supported with funding from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the Dirk and Charlene Kabcenell Foundation.

The findings presented above are based on responses from 1,561 California adult residents. The sampling error is ±3.4 percent for the total unweighted sample. Interviewing took place on weekend days and weekday nights from July 8–17, 2020. For more information on methodology, see page 20.

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.