Donald Trump has repeatedly cast doubt on global warming science. He has threatened to pull out of the Paris Climate Accord. His views on clean, renewable energy sources like wind and solar have mostly been negative. His cabinet picks for top environment and energy posts signal erosion of environmental protections and backing for oil and coal companies over climate change measures and clean energy innovation—and more science denial.
Is all this what Trump’s 61 million American voters bargained for?
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Recent public opinion research shows that Trump may be out of sync with his voters on climate change. Yale University’s Program on Climate Change Communication looked at data from its recent Climate Change in the American Mind survey to assess Trump voters’ views about global warming and clean energy. While Trump voters’ attitudes are less favorable to climate protections and clean energy progress than overall national opinion, Yale finds that about half to a majority of Trump voters understand global warming is happening and support a variety of climate and clean energy policies.
The polling comes from a survey of 1,226 Americans, 401 of whom voted for Trump, conducted shortly after the November 2016 election. Here are top findings along with comparisons to national attitudes overall:
- About half of Trump voters (49 percent) acknowledge global warming is happening, while fewer than one in three (30 percent) think global warming is not happening. For comparison, overall, seven in ten Americans (70 percent) understand global warming is happening, and about one in eight (13 percent) say global warming is not happening. In other words, Americans who understand global warming is happening outnumber those who think it is not by more than 5 to 1.
- Almost half of Trump voters (47 percent) also say the US should participate in the Paris COP21 international agreement to limit climate change. By contrast, only 28 percent say the US should not participate. Overall, seven in ten registered voters (69 percent) say the US should participate, compared with only 13 percent who say the US should not.
- More than six in ten Trump voters (62 percent) support taxing and/or regulating the pollution that causes global warming, with a plurality—nearly one in three (31 percent)—supporting both approaches. In contrast, only about one in five (21 percent) support doing neither. Taking US voters altogether, Yale found that nearly eight out of ten Americans (78 percent) support taxing global warming pollution, regulating it, or using both approaches, while only one in ten opposes these approaches.
- More than three in four Trump voters (77 percent) support generating renewable energy (solar and wind) on public land in the US, and 72 percent support more drilling and mining of fossil fuels on public land in the US. For Americans more broadly, Yale finds high levels of support for producing solar and wind on public land: 83 percent of all registered voters, 87 percent of Democrats, 76 percent of Independents, and 79 percent of Republicans. Comparatively fewer support drilling or mining fossil fuels on public land (47 percent of all registered voters, 27 percent of Democrats, 46 percent of Independents, and 69 percent of Republicans).
- Seven in ten Trump voters (71 percent) support funding more research into clean energy and providing tax rebates to people who purchase energy-efficient vehicles and solar panels (69 percent). By comparison, looking at US voters overall, there is strong bipartisan support for funding more research into renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power (82 percent of all registered voters, 90 percent of Democrats, 76 percent of Independents, and 74 percent of Republicans).
- Over half of Trump voters (52 percent) support eliminating all federal subsidies for the fossil fuel industry, nearly half (48 percent) support requiring fossil fuel companies to pay a carbon tax and using the money to reduce other taxes by an equal amount, and almost half or Trump voters (48 percent) support setting strict carbon dioxide emissions limits on existing coal-fired power plants to reduce global warming and improve public health, even if the cost of electricity to consumers and companies would likely increase. By comparison, seven in ten registered voters overall (70 percent) support setting strict carbon dioxide emission limits, even if the costs would likely increase, including Democrats (85 percent), Independents (62 percent), and Republicans (52 percent).
- Half of Trump voters say transitioning from fossil fuels toward clean energy will either improve economic growth (29 percent) or have no impact (21 percent). That’s compared to 72 percent of voters overall. Yale found that half of registered voters (51 percent) think government policies intended to transition away from fossil fuels and toward clean energy will improve economic growth and provide new jobs. An additional one in five (21 percent) think it will have no impact on the economy or jobs. Only about one in four (27 percent) think it will reduce economic growth and cost jobs.
- Nearly three in four Trump voters (73 percent) say that, in the future, the US should use more renewable energy (solar, wind, and geothermal). One in three (33 percent) say that the US should use fossil fuels less in the future. In general, most registered voters think the US should use more renewable energy (81 percent) and less fossil fuels (55 percent). Support for using more renewable energy cuts across party lines (it is supported by 85 percent of Democrats, 78 percent of Independents, and 76 percent of Republicans).
Climate change is likely not a top concern for those who voted for Donald Trump. It’s frankly not top of list for many US voters of any stripe. But what’s clear from these findings is that even for those who cast their ballot for him, and far more significantly for majorities of American voters overall, Trump’s views on climate and his moves to roll back environmental standards enacted under Barack Obama, including the Clean Power Plan and higher fuel economy standards for vehicles, are far from mainstream.