Broad support for Smart Growth to address climate change
Despite the picture presented by political pundits from practically every news organization from Fox News to NPR, most Americans believe that climate change and global warming should be a national priority, regardless of their political alignment.
Furthermore, according to a Yale University survey, support is broad among Americans for land use and transportation policies that address greenhouse gas emissions. Out of the 1,010 respondents, 80 percent favor more public transportation, 77 percent support the implementation of bike lanes, and 56 percent support reducing suburban sprawl and encouraging infill development in downtowns. Respondents also overwhelmingly favor the development of clean energy sources by more than 9-to-1.
The recent survey, from the Project on Climate Change Communication at Yale University (downloable pdf here), has found that 71 percent of Americans feel climate change should be a federal priority, with 13 percent considering it a “very high” priority, 27 percent marking it as “high” and 31 percent “medium.”
While these priority figures may seem higher than one might expect, public prioritization on global warming has been in decline since 2008, when Yale first began its poll. Anthony Leiserowitz, the director of the Yale Project on Climate Change, told the DC Streetsblog that this is mainly due to the public’s increased concern about the economy. “People are much more worried about losing their job or their house,” he said. “The threat of climate change just can’t compare.”
Perhaps most surprising, although consistent with the findings of Smart Growth America and the Rockefeller Foundation, climate change response policies are supported by Republicans and Independents as well as Democrats. For example, Transportation for America highlights these interesting figures from the Yale survey:
- Among Republicans, 74 percent support installing bike lanes, with 23 percent in strong support
- 80 percent of Republicans favor increasing the availability of public transportation, almost identical to the national average
- 79 percent of independents favored more public transportation, with 31 percent strongly in favor
- Republicans were about evenly split on supporting measures to reduce sprawl and target development in city and town centers, with 48 percent in favor and 52 percent opposed.
“We find very strong bipartisan support for a variety of climate and energy policies in this country,” Anthony Leiserowitz told the DC Streetsblog. “It runs contrary to what you might expect looking at, for instance, the current make up of Congress and the Republican candidates for president.”
The DC Streetsblog found differences in opinions when taxes versus increased consumer costs were considered:
While Americans were generally supportive of climate change policy fixes, their commitment did not go as far when their wallets entered the equation. For example, poll respondents generally favored expanding public transit options. But when asked if they would be willing to support a 10 cent fee per gallon of gas to support transit, they were overwhelmingly opposed, Leiserowitz said. Americans are also diametrically opposed to tax increases of all types. Those polled rejected the idea of a carbon tax, even if the revenues would be returned in the form of income tax reductions.
“There is some element of wishful thinking here.” Leiserowitz said. “It’s not that they’re just against paying more; people support increased energy costs. For whatever reason there’s a taboo around paying at the gas pump that people just don’t like. They also don’t like the word ‘tax.’”