A report released Friday by the University of New Hampshire’s Carsey School of Public Policy found that a majority of Americans, including some Trump voters least likely to believe in manmade climate change, believe in prioritizing renewable energy over oil drilling.
Carsey school researchers surveyed 707 adults from 50 states both before and after the election. They found that three-fourths of all respondents, regardless of political affiliation, said that renewable energy should be a higher national priority than oil drilling. Broken down according to party, 93 percent of Clinton voters and 84 percent of non voters agreed. Trump voters were the only group that favored expanded oil drilling, but by a slim margin—48 percent preferred renewable energy. Disappointing, but there’s indication of a promising trend: before the election, only 39 percent of Trump supporters said the same.
The findings line up with the results of other recent polls. A Pew Survey in October, for instance, also found strong bipartisan support for green energy, leading Pew researchers to conclude that, while climate science is highly politicized, climate skepticism doesn’t transfer to all related issues:
While there are substantial party and ideological divides over increasing fossil fuel and nuclear energy sources, strong majorities of all political groups support more solar and wind production. These patterns are broadly consistent with past Center findings that climate change and fossil fuel energy issues are strongly linked with party and ideology, but political divisions have a much more modest or no relationship with public attitudes on a host of other science-related topics.
That’s especially encouraging as rural voters, overwhelmingly Trump supporters, would be most impacted by either a push for more coal mining jobs or a shift to green energy. Based on survey results, presenting green energy as a solution to climate change won’t stir up much support from this base, but the simple economic truth that coal use is on a long-term decline and green jobs are the future could matter a lot.
Unfortunately, Trump supporters aren’t budging on the issue of climate change. Only 25 percent of Trump supporters surveyed agree that man-made climate change is happening now. That’s in stark contrast to the 90 percent of Clinton supporters, 76 percent of nonvoters and 68 percent of third-party voters who have accepted the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change.
Both during the campaign and after his election, Trump and his allies, particularly Environmental Protection Agency pick Scott Pruitt, have run on a campaign of “soft denial” of climate change. It’s not just that they’re ignoring the scientific consensus, they’re doing so insidiously: moving from the baldfaced absurdity of “climate change isn’t happening” to the intellectually dishonest position that scientists are still not in agreement. It’s a pivot that ignores that we’re already seeing climate change’s devastating consequences.
It’s unlikely we’ll see even moderate support for scientifically-founded environmental reform strategies in the near future, and certainly nothing in the way of corporate regulation. But as the effects of climate change become ever more apparent, it’s encouraging that we may see modest support for green energy initiatives, even amongst skeptics.