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PPIC survey puts spotlight on environmental issues

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In the Public Policy Institute of California’s (PPIC) eleventh annual survey on environmental policy issues, 75% said they believe global warming is a very serious or somewhat serious threat to the economy and quality of life in California, including 82% of Democrats, 77% of Independents and 45% of Republicans.

Republicans remain skeptical of the environmental threat posed by global climate change, with a slight majority (51%) stating that the threat is not serious at all or not too serious.  Only 20% of Independents and just 16% of Democrats said that the threat posed by global warming is not serious at all or not very serious.  Interestingly, however, a majority of Republicans (58%) nonetheless believe the government should regulate greenhouse gas emissions in an effort to combat global warming, compared with 87% of Democrats and 78% of Independents.

Overall, a majority of Californians (58%) support action by the state government to address the issue independently of the federal government. That includes 72% of Democrats, 63% of Independents and 40% of Republicans.  Interestingly, even more respondents were supportive of ongoing efforts by the state to address the issue.  67% said they support the Global Warming Solution Act of 2006, which requires California to significantly reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. On this particular issue, Republicans remain more divided than Democrats or Independents, though a plurality of GOP supporters (45%) favor the law. 

Across partisan lines, a wide majority of the state’s residents favor reductions in emissions by industry and automobiles (82%, 81% respectively), an increase in renewable energy by utilities (82%)  and increases in the energy efficiency of buildings and appliances (74%).  A 27% plurality identify air pollution as the more important environmental issue facing California today; 66% believe air pollution is a big problem or somewhat of a big problem, compared with 33% who believe it is not a problem.

Generally, Californians have more trust in local and state government than they do in the federal government when it comes to addressing environmental problems.  35% said they trust local government the most, compared with 24% who favor the state and 20% who said they trust the federal government the most.  12% stated that they do not trust the local, state or federal government to deal with environmental problems, including 17% of Independents, 17% of Republicans and 9% of Democrats. 

The poll also gauged the approval ratings of Governor Jerry Brown and the state legislature.  Among likely voters, 48% approved of the job Brown is doing as governor, while only 36% supported his handling of environmental issues. Californians remain highly critical of the state legislature.  59% disapprove of the way state lawmakers are handling their job, including 78% of Republicans, 72% of Independents and 63% of Democrats.  On environmental issues, Californians are somewhat more forgiving.  Just 44% disapprove of the way the state legislature is handling environmental issues, while 31% said they approve.  

Querying respondents as to their political affiliation, 45% identified themselves as Democrats, 32% stated that they are Republicans, 19% said they are Independents, and 4% said they affiliate with some other party.  Though there are fewer self-identified Independents in California than there are in the nation as a whole, there are proportionally more so-called “pure” Independents in the Golden State.  Nationally, Independents (36%) outnumber both Democrats (32%) and Republicans (26%), according to Pollster.com’s average across a wide variety of surveys.  However, anywhere from 80-90% of Independents nationwide say they lean toward one or the other major party.  In California, the PPIC survey found that 33% of self-identified Independents do not lean toward either the Republican or Democratic party. 

The poll’s results are based on a telephone survey of 2,504 adult residents throughout the state, and have a margin of error of plus or minus 3%.  The survey can be read in its entirety at the PPIC’s website

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