New Poll: Public Wants EPA to Do More to Reduce Air Pollution

(March 21, 2012)

Despite the public’s strong support of this lifesaving law, the Clean Air Act has faced opposition from big polluters and their Congressional allies time and time again. Now, a new bipartisan survey shows the American people support the Clean Air Act and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) efforts to update and enforce clean air standards, including carbon and mercury emissions from power plants.

The poll, conducted by Republican firm Perception Insight and Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, has national data and state data for Maine, Pennsylvania and Ohio. The results show broad support for strengthening air pollution standards.

What are the survey results?

  • Nearly three quarters (73 percent) of voters, say that we do not have to choose between air quality and a strong economy – we can achieve both.
  • A 2-to-1 majority (60 to 31 percent) believe that strengthening safeguards against pollution will create, rather than destroy, jobs by encouraging innovation.
  • About two-thirds of voters (66 percent) favor EPA updating air pollution standards by setting stricter limits.
  • 72 percent of voters support new standards for carbon pollution from power plants and support is strong (63 percent) after hearing arguments from both sides of the issue.
  • 60 percent of voters support stricter standards for gasoline and limits on the amount of tailpipe emissions from cars and SUVs (particularly strong given all the recent attention to high gasoline prices).

“The survey clearly indicates that voters reject the notion that we have to choose between strong safeguards against air pollution and economic growth,” said Andrew Bauman, Vice President at Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research. “In fact, voters overwhelmingly believe that stronger safeguards against air pollution will create jobs in America.”

What  else do the majority of voters think?

The Obama Administration will soon release updated clean air standards for carbon pollution emitted by power plants, and a substantial majority of voters support the EPA implementing these standards, even after hearing opposing arguments that stricter standards will damage the economic recovery. Initially, 72 percent of voters nationwide support the new protections on carbon emissions from power plants, including overwhelming majorities of both Democrats and independents and a majority of Republicans. This survey shows that people don’t buy into big pollution’s claims that we must choose between either a strong economy or public health.

How can we apply these results?

“Big polluters and their allies in Congress cannot ignore the facts; more air pollution means more childhood asthma attacks, more illness and more people dying prematurely,” said Peter Iwanowicz, Assistant Vice President, National Policy and Advocacy with the American Lung Association. “It’s time polluters and their Congressional allies drop their attempts to weaken, block or delay clean air protections and listen to the public who overwhelmingly want the EPA to do more to protect the air we breathe.”

With public opinion in agreement, Congress should listen. Feelings toward Congress continue to drop, especially among Democrats and independents. Less than 20 percent of voters (18%) nationally give Congress a favorable rating, while 56 percent rate Congress unfavorable. In fact, since the American Lung Association’s last survey released in June 2011, unfavorable ratings of Congress are up 9 percent.

“The poll does show there is broad support across partisan lines for new carbon regulations on power plants,” said Marc DelSignore, President of Perception Insight. “However, there is a significant difference in the views regarding the impact regulations may have on the economy, with Republicans expressing higher concern for possible job loss and rising energy prices than Democrats or independents.”

You can find the full survey, along with slides and a memo from Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and Perception Insight here.

What can you do?

Tell Your Senators: Protect Us from Toxic Air Pollution from Power Plants
The U.S. Senate may vote soon on legislation (S.J. Res. 37), introduced by Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, that would permanently block the EPA’s lifesaving toxic air pollution standards for coal- and oil-fired power plants. If Senator Inhofe succeeds, the new standards to protect the public from toxic air pollution emitted by these facilities will be terminated. This means that millions of people will continue to be exposed indefinitely to dangerous levels of toxic air pollution that leads to illness or premature death.

Please speak out against Sen. Inhofe’s extreme measure to permanently roll back these important safeguards that protect public health. You can help save lives and protect public health, our children, and our communities from toxic air pollution. Go here to take action