Public still wants climate change bill, polls say

Advocates of climate change legislation this morning rolled out a pair of polls designed to show that the public still wants action on the issue, even after the nearly yearlong fight over a bill.

The first was released by prominent Republican pollster Frank Luntz, who said his research showed that while voters supported policies that boost national security, reduce oil dependence and create American jobs, they were not responding to the language used by many on the left to push their message.

About 54 percent of voters in Luntz's poll believed that climate change is either "definitely" or "probably" occurring, compared with 18 percent who believed that it is "definitely" or "probably" not occurring. An even larger percentage -- 63 percent -- believed climate change is likely caused by humans.

At the same time, Luntz said his research showed that the issue of climate change itself wasn't actually important for many voters -- only 5 percent said "ending climate change" should be the most important environmental and economic goal. The top concerns for the voters, in order, were: ending dependence on foreign fuels, halting air and water pollution, saving the planet from destruction and creating new energy jobs.

"The least important component of climate change is climate change," Luntz said. "Americans are more concerned about national security, they're more concerned about the health of the environment, they're more concerned about creating jobs in this country."


The poll, conducted by Luntz's firm Word Doctors, was released at a news event organized by the advocacy group Environmental Defense Fund.

Luntz also argued that while Americans were eager to support new jobs creation, President Obama and his allies should abandon the term "green" jobs in favor of "American jobs" or "permanent jobs," both of which scored much higher in Luntz's polling across all ideological groups.

"If Obama wants to promote this, it isn't green jobs, it's American jobs," he said.

Luntz was once seen as something of a villain in the environmental community. During the Bush administration, he wrote a memo -- which was later leaked publicly -- that mapped out a strategy for Republicans to win the political fight on climate change and urged the party to increasing its challenge of the science behind the issue.

This is not the first time prominent Republican officials have appeared at an Environmental Defense Fund event to promote action on climate change; the group previously brought in former Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman and prominent Bush campaign operative Tucker Eskew.

EDF President Fred Krupp said Luntz would be paid to work as a consultant for EDF.

Word Doctors surveyed 1,007 registered voters nationwide over the past several months. The poll has a margin of error of 3 percentage points. His firm also conducted a series of "dial sessions" around the country to further gauge public opinion.

Even as Luntz released his data criticizing some of the environmental community's messaging, a coalition of environmental organizations and other advocacy groups that are pushing for a climate bill released its own poll showing continued public support for the cap-and-trade bill.

The poll from the Benenson Strategy Group, conducted on behalf of Clean Energy Works, showed that 58 percent of voters in key battleground states supported an energy bill that contained cap-and-trade provisions, while 38 percent opposed such a bill.

Additionally, 56 percent said they would be more likely to re-elect a senator if he or she voted in favor of the energy bill, compared with 35 percent who said they would be less likely to do so.

The Benenson Strategy Group poll conducted interviews with 800 likely 2010 voters in 16 battleground states earlier this month. It has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.

Groups urge action on bill

The release of the polls coincided with a letter sent today by about 80 major U.S. corporations to Obama and members of Congress. In the letter, the groups urge action on climate change legislation, stating that the country is falling behind in the global race to develop energy technology.

"We are developing new technologies, launching new companies, and introducing new business models that drive economic growth, create new jobs and decrease our carbon footprint," the letter states. "However, today's uncertainty surrounding energy and climate regulation is hindering the large-scale actions that American businesses are poised to make. We need strong policies and clear market signals that support the transition to a low-carbon economy and reward companies that innovate."

The letter's signatories include PG&E Corp., Duke Energy, Entergy, Exelon, Dow Chemical, eBay, Shell Oil, the three major domestic auto manufacturers and a number of other major utilities and major corporations.

Click here to view some of the results from the Luntz poll.

Click here to view the letter to the White House and Congress from U.S. businesses.

Senior reporter Darren Samuelsohn contributed.

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