|2008 ELECTION SURVEY: DRAMATIC JUMP SEEN IN NUMBER OF AMERICANS
WHO VIEW POLITICAL LEADERS AS WEAK ON ENERGY/CLIMATE ISSUES
Strong, Bipartisan Majorities Want Action on “Clean Power Agenda”; But 72% Now See Leaders As Weak on Energy/Climate Matters … Compared to Just 57% Before 2004 Election.
WASHINGTON, D.C.///February 28, 2008//In what could be real trouble for politicians facing voters in 2008, the number of American who give current political leaders poor marks on energy/climate leadership is up sharply when compared to the pre-2004 election period, according to a major new national opinion survey conducted by Opinion Research Corporation (ORC) for the nonprofit and nonpartisan Civil Society Institute (CSI) think tank and its Results for America (RFA) project.
The CSI/RFA survey find that the percentage of Americans who regard the ability of today’s political leaders to frame “practical, problem-solving solutions” on energy/climate change issues as weak is now at 72 percent -- including 82 percent of Democrats, 75 percent of Independents and 58 percent of Republicans. That “weak” rating stands in sharp contrast to the 57 percent of Americans who said the same when the identical question was posed in a CSI/RFA political leadership survey in October 2003.
In fact, on a list of four key national issue areas, American politicians were ranked as being weaker in 2008 only on delivering “affordable health care insurance and premiums” (78 percent). Fewer Americans ranked politicians as weak on “improving the quality of education” (67 percent) and “foreign policy, countering new threats to security” (54 percent).
Other key findings of the CSI/RFA political leadership survey include the following: More than nine out of 10 Americans (91 percent) – including 94 percent of Democrats, 87 percent of Independents and 88 percent of Republicans -- want a U.S. president with a “willingness to rise above party politics, if necessary”. At the same time, over four out of five Americans (84 percent) – including 88 percent of Democrats, 85 percent of Independents and 78 percent of Republicans – agree with the following statement: "A sound energy policy is central to solving some of the most urgent problems facing our country. An energy policy that promotes clean power would encourage innovation, create new jobs and make for a stronger economy. It also allows the U.S. to disentangle itself from unstable and hostile regions of the world while also reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions."
The Civil Society Institute/Results For America survey also found that Americans strongly support phasing out coal/other carbon and phasing in clean power. Nearly nine out of 10 Americans (86 percent) – including 91 percent of Democrats, 93 percent of Independents and 79 percent Republicans – agree with the statement: “A national energy strategy based on a 'phasing in' of new technologies and a phasing out of carbon based energy sources would require specific actions. America should commit to a five-year moratorium on new coal-fired plants and, instead, focus on aggressive expansion of wind, solar and other renewable energy sources. Tax and other incentives should be provided for all new construction to help reduce energy consumption. Homeowners should get incentives to make their homes more energy efficient to help reduce energy demands."
Civil Society Institute President and Founder Pam Solo said: “The American public is way ahead of the politicians today in recognizing the serious threat posed by global warming and the need for immediate and comprehensive national energy policy changes. It is apparent from this survey that there is a huge and unsatisfied appetite today among Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike for leadership and problem solving that comes from both sides of the aisle without the usual partisan bickering and footdragging. Americans don’t want the President and Congress to tinker at the margins on energy and the climate policy. Instead, Americans support a path that begins with a moratorium on new coal fired plants accompanied by heavy investment in clean power and energy and fuel efficiency.”
For more about the Citizens Lead for Energy Action campaign organized by CSI and grassroots across the United States, go to http://www.CleanEnergyAction.net.
OTHER KEY SURVEY FINDINGS
- Views on party-based leadership on climate issues have changed sharply over the last six months. An interesting shift from October 2007 to February 2008: The share of Americans who think that Democrats belong to the “political party (that) is more likely to take decisive leadership on the problems of global warming” has increased from 36 percent (October 2007) to fully half (February 2008). The number who sees Republicans as most likely to show such leadership is virtually unchanged – 10 percent (2007) and 11 percent (2008). The share who thinks “it will take an Independent to change things” is down sharply from 42 percent (2007) to now less than a third (30 percent). The 2008 survey shows that more Republicans think that Democrats are more likely than Republicans (29 versus 27 percent) to be the party that takes action on global warming. By contrast, Democrats see themselves as much more likely than Republicans (72 percent versus 2 percent) to be the party of action on global warming.
- Americans have become somewhat more optimistic about the potential for leadership on climate. Despite the generally dim view they take of current political leaders on energy/climate solutions, the view of Americans about the likelihood that “current elected officials in the United States will act decisively on global warming issues” improved somewhat from October 2007 to February 2008. In the earlier survey, the total of Americans with a “very high” or “good” degree of confidence of such action was at 25 percent versus 31 percent in the new survey. By the same token, the level of those with “no confidence” in seeing such leadership dropped from 28 percent in October 2007 to 20 percent in February 2008. The share of those with only a “small degree of confidence” was virtually unchanged (43 percent in October 2007 versus 44 percent in February 2008).
- Americans want Washington to lead on climate, rather than leaving the job to local officials. About seven out of 10 Americans (69 percent) – including 82 percent of Democrats, 86 percent of Independents and 47 percent of Republicans – agree that: “We need leadership on global warming from Washington, D.C., because it is a national problem that will require national solutions”. Only 14 percent think that “grassroots officials” are exercising enough leadership that Washington does not need to get involved. About the same share of Americans (13 percent) think that “we do not need either national or grassroots leadership on global warming.”
- Americans want the U.S. to lead – not follow – other nations on climate policy. About four out of five Americans (79 percent) – including 89 percent of Democrats, 83 percent of Independents and 65 percent of Republicans – say that “the United States should lead by example when it comes to curbs on global warming” rather than waiting for action first by nations such as China and India. By contrast only 15 percent of Americans say that “the United States should wait for other nations to take action first on global warming” first.
- Americans want the U.S. to lead – not follow – other nations on clean tech development. More than two out of three Americans (68 percent) – including 74 percent of Democrats and 62 percent of Independents – think “the United States is behind other nations in the research and development of new technologies, but we should be the world leader in global warming solutions -- and get the resulting benefits of taking action.” Fewer than one in five Americans (19 percent) agree the U.S. is behind in the race, but “we should just focus on "playing catch up" to other countries”.
- Americans agree it’s time for a “new industrial revolution” focused on a changed approach to energy. About nine out of 10 Americans (89 percent) – including 95 percent of Democrats, 89 percent of Independents and 83 percent of Republicans – agree that: “The reliance on fossil fuels is the product of the industrial revolution of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Do you think it is time for the leaders of our nation to start thinking in terms of the concept of a "new industrial revolution," one that is characterized by the orderly phasing out of fossil fuels and the phasing in of clean, renewable energy sources -- many of which are available now, such as wind and solar for electricity, hybrid and clean diesel technologies for cars?”
- Americans want a shift to clean energy – even though the transition may not be entirely smooth. More than three out of four Americans (78 percent) – including 87 percent of Democrats, 85 percent of Independents and 65 percent of Republicans -- agree with the statement: "The effects of global warming require that we take timely and decisive steps for renewable, safe and clean energy sources. We need transitional technologies on our path to energy independence. There are tough choices to be made and tradeoffs. We cannot afford to postpone decisions since there are no perfect options.”
- More Americans now see the country as moving in the wrong direction. Heading into the 2008 presidential elections, the level of Americans who are concerned about the direction of the country is up sharply from the pre-2004 election period. In 2008, a total of 76 percent of Americans said the country is either moving in the “wrong direction” (32 percent) or “America seems to be without direction today” (44 percent). This is up sharply from a 55 percent level of total concern when the same question was posed before the 2004 election, with 22 percent seeing the country moving in the wrong direction and 33 percent as the country having no direction. In the 2008 survey, only 11 percent of Democrats, 15 percent of Independents and just over a third (37 percent) of Republicans see the country moving in the right direction.
For complete survey findings, go http://www.CivilSocietyInstitute.org on the Web.
The new Civil Society Institute/Results For America survey by Opinion Research Corporation was conducted among a representative sample of 1,006 adults 18 years old and older (503 men and 503 women) living in private households in the continental United States. Interviewing was completed during the period of February 7-10, 2008. Completed interviews in all three surveys were weighted by four variables: age, sex, geographic region, and race, to ensure reliable and accurate representation of the total adult population. The margin of error is plus or minus three percentage points for a sample of about 1,000 adults. Smaller sub-groups will have larger error margins.
ABOUT CSI AND RFA
The nonprofit and nonpartisan Civil Society Institute (http://www.CivilSocietyInstitute.org) is a think tank that serves as a catalyst for change by creating problem-solving interactions among people, and between communities, government and business that can help to improve society. CSI has conducted more than 15 major surveys and reports since 2003 on energy and auto issues, including vehicle fuel-efficiency standards, consumer demand for hybrids/other highly-fuel efficient vehicles, global warming and renewable energy.
CSI is the parent organization of Results for America (http://www.ResultsForAmerica.org), 40MPG.org (http://www.40MPG.org) and the Hybrid Owners of America (http://www.HybridOwnersofAmerica.org). The Civil Society Institute also worked with grassroots organizations across the United States to help launch Citizens Lead for Energy Action Now (CLEAN) at http://www.cleanengeryaction.net.
CONTACT: Patrick Mitchell, (703) 276-3266 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
EDITOR'S NOTE: A streaming audio recording of the news event will be available on the Web as of 5 p.m. ET on February 28, 2008 at http://www.resultsforamerica.org.