Poll: Many disapprove of Trump’s climate change views

President Donald Trump speaks to reporters Oct. 27, 2018, in Indianapolis. An AP-NORC Center poll released Thursday finds Americans are most unhappy with Trump on his handling of climate change.

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump gets some of his worst marks from the American people when it comes to his handling of climate change, and majorities believe the planet is warming and support government actions that he has sometimes scoffed at.

While the administration has rolled back regulations to cut emissions of heat-trapping carbon dioxide from power and industrial plants and pushed for more coal use, wide shares of Americans say they want just the opposite, according to a new poll from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

About 2 out of 3 Americans say corporations have a responsibility to combat climate change, and a similar share also say it’s the job of the U.S. government.

But 64 percent of Americans say they disapprove of Trump’s policies toward climate change while about half that many say they approve. That 32 percent approval of his climate policies is the lowest among six issue areas that the poll asked about, including immigration (38 percent and health care 37 percent).

Ann Florence, a 70-year-old retiree and self-described independent from Jonesborough, Tenn., said she faults Trump on climate change “because he doesn’t believe it’s happening. It is changing if he would just look at what’s happening.”

While a majority of Republicans do approve of Trump’s performance on climate change, his marks among the GOP on the issue are slightly lower compared with other issues. Meanwhile, 7 percent of Democrats and 29 percent of independents approve of Trump on climate change.

Ricky Kendrick, a 30-year-old in Grand Junction, Colo., said he is contemplating leaving the Republican Party, partly over its denial of climate change.

“They don’t see it as a priority at all,” Kendrick, a hardware salesman in the heart of western Colorado’s energy belt, complained of the president and his party. “There are some (weather) things happening that I’ve never seen before. ... Something’s changing.”

He was alarmed at Trump’s departure from the Paris climate accord and wants the U.S. to reduce offshore drilling, end subsidies for fossil fuels and ramp up those for renewable energy.

While the poll finds about half of Americans want to decrease or eliminate subsidies for fossil fuels, a similar share say subsidies for renewable energy should be increased.

But will Trump’s climate change denial — often voiced in tweets — matter in 2020?

“Climate has not historically been what people vote on, but I think the tides are changing on that,” said University of Maryland sociologist Dana Fisher, who studies the environmental movement.

She said her research shows that young people, who don’t vote in large numbers, are activated by climate change.

Climate change is becoming more of a national priority among Democrats but not Republicans, said Tony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. It might make a difference in a close race, he said.

According to the AP VoteCast survey, 7 percent of voters in the 2018 midterm election called the environment the top issue facing the country. By contrast, 26 percent said health care was the top issue, 23 percent said immigration and 18 percent said the economy and jobs. Democratic voters were far more likely than Republican voters to call the environment the top issue, 12 percent to 2 percent.

In the new poll, roughly three out of four Americans say they believe climate change is happening and a large majority of those think humans are at least partly to blame. In total, 47 percent of all Americans say they think climate change is happening and is caused mostly or entirely by human activities; 20 percent think it’s caused about equally by human activities and natural changes in the environment; and 8 percent think it’s happening but is caused mostly or entirely by natural changes in the environment.

There’s a large gap between partisans on the issue. Ninety-two percent of Democrats say climate change is happening, and nearly all of those think it’s caused at least equally by human activity and natural changes in the environment. While more than half of Republicans, 56 percent, say they think climate change is happening, only 41 percent think human activities are a factor.

Americans are slightly more likely to favor taxing the use of carbon-based fuels than to oppose it, 37 percent to 31 percent. If that revenue is turned into a tax rebate to all Americans, approval ticks up to 43 percent.

About two-thirds of Americans also favor regulating carbon emissions from power and industrial plants.

People say they are more likely to oppose than favor expanding offshore drilling (39 percent vs. 32, allowing more use of hydraulic fracking to extract oil and natural gas (45 percent vs. 22 percent) and building new nuclear power plants (43 percent vs. 26 percent).

Compared with five years ago, Americans are somewhat more positive toward policies focused on renewable energy and somewhat more negative toward those that extract oil and gas. In November 2014, 66 percent of Americans favored funding research into renewable energy sources, while nearly 80 percent do so today.

“We don’t need coal and oil anymore,” said Brenda Perry, a 77-year-old retired hotel executive and Democrat living in Plymouth, Mass. “We have other ways of doing energy.”

Rodney Dell, 65, likes that Trump has resisted what Dell sees as panic about the climate.

“His direction is correct,” Dell, a Republican who runs a distribution warehouse, said of the president. “I think the climate policies are overblown a lot.”

Still, Dell, of Irving, Texas, worked in his youth assembling solar panels and is proud that his local library is 100 percent powered by renewables. He wants more subsidies for green energy and less offshore drilling.

“If you can do something to conserve energy by using the sun and the wind that’s there every day, it’d be ridiculous not to use them,” he said.

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