SAN FRANCISCO, July 27, 2016—Ten years after California enacted AB 32, the landmark law mandating the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, strong majorities of residents support its goals and favor a proposal to expand on them. These are among the key findings in a statewide survey released today by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC).
When Californians are asked if they favor or oppose the law requiring the state to reduce emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020, 69 percent are in favor (19% oppose, 13% don’t know). Among likely voters, 62 percent favor the law. There is a striking partisan divide. Majorities of Democrats (80%) and independents (56%) favor the law, compared to 44 percent of Republicans. When the survey first asked this question in 2006, support was similar across parties (65% Republicans, 67% Democrats, 68% independents).
With the state on track to meet AB 32’s goals, a proposed new law would set more ambitious targets. It would require a reduction in emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. When asked about this proposal, 68 percent of adults and 59 percent of likely voters favor it. Across parties, Democrats (78%) are twice as likely as Republicans (39%) to favor the expanded goals (59% independents in favor).
Californians couple their support for reducing emissions with an expectation of higher costs. Most adults and likely voters (59% each) say state action to reduce global warming will cause gasoline prices around the state to increase. Among Californians who say gas prices will rise, 64 percent favor AB 32’s goals and 63 percent favor expanding them. Also, majorities of adults and likely voters (56% each) say that, to reduce global warming, they are willing to pay more for electricity if it is generated by renewable sources like solar or wind. Democrats (68%) and independents (51%) are more likely to be willing than Republicans (38%) to pay more.
“We find strong support today for the state’s greenhouse gas emissions targets set 10 years ago,” said Mark Baldassare, PPIC president and CEO. “The commitment to help reduce global warming includes a surprising willingness on the part of majorities of Californians to pay higher prices.”
Most Californians don’t expect actions to reduce warming to cost the state jobs: 40 percent of adults say the result will be more jobs and 29 percent predict there will be no effect on the number of jobs. Just 20 percent think there will be fewer jobs because of the state’s actions.
Most Favor Cap and Trade
A majority of Californians (55%) say they have heard nothing about the state’s cap-and-trade system—a major part of the effort to achieve AB 32’s emissions reduction goal. After hearing a short description of the system, 54 percent of adults say they favor it. Transportation fuels have been included in the cap- and-trade system since 2015, and the Legislative Analyst estimated earlier this year that this has added 11 cents per gallon to the price of gasoline. After hearing this cost estimate along with a brief list of programs that receive state cap-and-trade revenues, 52 percent of adults and 49 percent of likely voters favor including transportation fuels in the system (36% adults, 40% likely voters oppose). A portion of cap-and-trade revenue is required by law to be spent on projects to improve environmental conditions in lower-income and disadvantaged communities. Half of Californians (51%) and 46 percent of likely voters say it is very important to spend some of the revenue this way.
Most Californians (81% adults, 75% likely voters) say global warming is a very serious or somewhat serious threat to the state’s future economy and quality of life. And most (64% adults, 64% likely voters) say the effects of warming have already begun, while fewer (25% adults, 21% likely voters) say there will be effects in the future. Far fewer (8% adults, 13% likely voters) say they will never happen. Most residents (65%) say global warming has contributed to California’s current wildfires.
Clinton Leads Trump 46%–30%; Environmental Stances Seen as Important
With the November election approaching, likely voters were asked about their choices in the presidential and US Senate races and the importance of candidates’ views on the environment. In the presidential race, likely voters favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump (46% to 30%)—a larger margin than in the May survey (49% to 39%), which did not ask about third-party candidates. Clinton has strong support among Democratic likely voters (81%) and leads Trump among independents (37% to 24%). Trump has strong support among Republicans (76%). The race is close among white likely voters, while Clinton has a large lead over Trump among Latinos and other racial/ethnic groups (sample sizes for Asian American and African American likely voters are too small for separate analysis). Most likely voters say the candidates’ positions on the environment are very important (45%) or somewhat important (38%) in making their choice.
In the US Senate matchup, which pits two Democrats against one another, likely voters prefer Kamala Harris to Loretta Sanchez (38% to 20%)—a larger margin than in May (34% to 26%). Harris has majority support among Democrats (53%) and leads Sanchez among independents (37% to 19%). Half (50%) of Republicans volunteer that they do not plan to vote in this race. Sanchez leads among Latinos, and Harris has large leads among whites and other racial/ethnic groups. Harris leads Sanchez by 25 points overall (53% to 28%) when excluding the 28 percent of survey respondents who volunteer that they won’t vote in this race. Again, most likely voters say the candidates’ positions on the environment are very (40%) or somewhat (43%) important in determining their vote.
Majorities Support Brown, Obama
The survey also asked about elected leaders at the state and national level.
- Governor Jerry Brown. Majorities of adults (54%) and likely voters (53%) approve of the way he is doing his job. About half (49% adults, 51% likely voters) approve of the way he is handling environmental issues.
- The state legislature. California lawmakers have a job approval rating of 45 percent among all adults and 42 percent among likely voters. The approval rating for the legislature’s handling of environmental issues is similar (48% adults, 42% likely voters).
- President Barack Obama. Majorities (60% adults, 56% likely voters) approve of the president’s job performance and have similar opinions of how he is handling environmental issues (60% adults, 55% likely voters).
- US Congress. Congress has much lower approval ratings for job performance (28% adults, 17% likely voters) and handling of environmental issues (31% adults, 17% likely voters).
Fewer Are Worried about Water, But It’s Still Top Environmental Issue
What is the most important environmental issue facing the state? Water supply and drought tops the list among Californians (38%), followed by air pollution (13%). The proportion of residents naming drought and water supply as the top issue has dropped 20 points since July 2015 (58%). Nonetheless, 62 percent of residents and 71 percent of likely voters say the supply of water is a big problem in their part of the state. Residents in the Central Valley (71%) are the most likely to hold this view and those in the San Francisco Bay Area (51%) are the least likely. Now that statewide mandatory water reduction targets have been lifted, residents are asked to assess government action on the drought. Majorities (58% adults, 63% likely voters) say state and local governments are not doing enough to respond.
“Water supply continues to top the list of environmental issues facing California even after an El Niño year,” Baldassare said. “With water restrictions lifted, many Californians are still calling for state and local governments to do more in responding to the drought.”
Many See Water, Air Pollution as Health Threats in Lower-Income Areas
Asked about pollution of drinking water, 59 percent of Californians and 48 percent of likely voters say it is a more serious health threat in lower-income areas in their part of the state. Latinos (76%), African Americans (65%), and Asian Americans (61%) are more likely than whites (46%) to express this view.
On the topic of air pollution, majorities (60% adults, 60% likely voters) say it is a big problem or somewhat of a problem in their part of the state. Latinos (68%) and African Americans (62%) are more likely than whites (54%) and Asians (51%) to call it a problem. Half of adults (50%) and 42 percent of likely voters say air pollution is a more serious health threat in lower-income areas than elsewhere in their part of the state. Latinos (65%) are more likely than Asian Americans and African Americans (52% each) to express this view and far more likely than whites (37%). And 53 percent of residents say air pollution is a very serious or somewhat serious threat to themselves and their immediate families. Among racial/ethnic groups, Latinos (62%) and African Americans (61%) are the most likely to hold this view.
“Many Californians perceive that lower-income communities face more serious health threats from air and water pollution,” Baldassare said. “Latino residents are the most likely to express these concerns.”
Opposition to Fracking Reaches Record High
The survey asks a series of questions about energy policy.
- Fracking. Majorities (58% adults, 60% likely voters) oppose the increased use of hydraulic fracturing—a record high since the survey first began asking this question in 2013.
- Oil drilling. Similar numbers of Californians (59% adults, 61% likely voters) oppose increased oil drilling off the California coast.
- Power plant emissions. Strong majorities (74% adults, 69% likely voters) favor setting stricter emission limits on power plants to address climate change.
- Solar power. Overwhelming majorities favor increasing tax credits and financial incentives for rooftop solar panels in California (76% adults, 77% likely voters) and building more solar power stations in the state (85% adults, 79% likely voters).
- Electric vehicles. The new state budget does not include money to extend subsidies for electric vehicle purchases. When asked about increasing tax credits and financial incentives for buying an electric vehicle, most adults and likely voters (68% each) are in favor. Most (77% adults, 74% likely voters) also favor building more charging stations and infrastructure to support electric vehicles. How many Californians have thought about buying or leasing an electric vehicle? Just under half (47%) say they have seriously considered it.
About the Survey
The PPIC Statewide Survey was conducted with funding from The Dirk and Charlene Kabcenell Foundation, the Heising-Simons Foundation, the Pisces Foundation, and the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation. Survey methods, questions, and content are determined solely by PPIC. This is the 16th annual PPIC Statewide Survey on environmental issues since 2000. Findings are based on a telephone survey of 1,703 California adult residents, including 853 interviewed on landline telephones and 850 on cell phones—from July 10–19, 2016. During this fielding period, Donald Trump announced his choice of running mate. Hillary Clinton announced her choice afterward. Interviews were conducted in English or Spanish, according to respondents’ preferences.
The sampling error, taking design effects from weighting into consideration, is ±3.5 percent for all adults, ±3.8 percent for the 1,373 registered voters, and ±4.3 percent for the 1,056 likely voters. For more information on methodology, see 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.
PPIC is dedicated to informing and improving public policy in California through independent, objective, nonpartisan research on major economic, social, and political issues. The institute was established in 1994 with an endowment from William R. Hewlett. PPIC does not take or support positions on any ballot measure or on any local, state, or federal legislation, nor does it endorse, support, or oppose any political parties or candidates for public office.