About two-thirds of small businesses are already taking measures to conserve energy and a majority support legislation that would provide grants, subsidies or interest-free loans for energy efficiency upgrades, according to survey results.
“They see the 21st century as being dependent on clean energy,” Arensmeyer said, “and they don’t want to miss the train.”
Recovering Economy Boosts Public Concern About Climate Change
A George Mason University/Yale University survey of 1,024 American adults showed that belief in global warming rose from 57 percent to 61 percent between January and June.
In tandem, belief that human activities are causing warming jumped from 47 percent to 50 percent. Some 53 percent of those polled said they worried about climate change while 63 percent said the issue is personally important to them.
“The stabilization and slight rebound in public opinion is occurring amid signs the economy is starting to recover, along with consumer confidence, and as memories of unusual snowstorms and scientific scandals recede,” Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication said via news release.
“The BP oil disaster is also reminding the public of the dark side of dependence on fossil fuels, which may be increasing support for clean energy policies.”
Some 71 percent of those polled want the federal government to make clean energy a high priority and 69 percent said the United States should act to curb heat-trapping gases even if it incurs large or moderate economic costs.
Support for specific policy options polled this way, with changes since January noted in parentheses:
“More than seven out of 10 Americans say the United States should take action to power our nation with clean energy,” Edward Maibach, director of the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason, said via news release. “Even more Americans support regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant, including 64 percent of Republicans.”
In Polls, Language Matters
Perhaps not so coincidentally, Krosnick was in Washington presenting his numbers the same day the U.S. Senate eventually beat back a Republican initiative to hamstring the Environmental Protection Agency’s progress toward regulating greenhouse gases via the Clean Air Act.
Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski’s resolution failed by a 53 to 47 vote. EPA’s science- and health-based endangerment finding states that greenhouse gas pollution is a danger to public health and welfare.
A recent Washington Post/ABC News poll shows broad public support for such federal government oversight. In total, 71 percent of those surveyed are behind federal regulation of greenhouse gases from power plants, vehicles and factories. Support swelled to 81 percent among Democrats and 69 percent among independents, and dipped to 55 percent among Republicans.
Krosnick didn’t quibble with the wording of that Post-ABC poll. But he did have bones to pick with the language used in national surveys commissioned by Gallup, CNN and the Pew Research Center in 2009. Wording in some of the questions, he said, violated one or both cardinal rules of good question design. The rules? Stick to a single topic per question and choose clear language.
For instance, he said, this highly publicized question in the Pew poll missed the mark: "From what you’ve read and heard, is there solid evidence that the average temperature on Earth has been getting warmer over the past few decades, or not?"
“This question measured perceptions of scientific evidence that the respondent has read or heard about, not the respondents’ personal opinions about whether the Earth has been warming,” he explained.
“Someone who has had no exposure to scientific evidence or who perceives the evidence to be equivocal may nonetheless be convinced that the Earth has been heating up by, say, the early blossoming of plants in his garden.”
His June survey employs simple and direct questions, as did a different Washington Post/ABC News survey released in November 2009, he said. Results showed 72 percent of those questioned answered that the Earth was heating up—numbers that jibe with Krosnick’s 74 percent finding.
Did Scientists’ Credibility Affect Public’s Beliefs?
The Stanford survey did not find evidence that media reports about the credibility of climate scientists affected the public’s beliefs about global warming, Krosnick said.
In this year’s Stanford survey, 71 percent of participants said they trust environmental scientists a moderate amount, a lot or completely. That compared to 68 percent in 2008 and 70 percent in 2009.