Poll Finds Strong Majority Of Americans Support An International Climate Agreement

03/30/2015 05:21 pm ET | Updated Mar 31, 2015
  • Kate Sheppard Senior reporter and the environment and energy editor, The Huffington Post

WASHINGTON -- A new poll finds an overwhelming majority of Americans support an international agreement to cut planet-warming emissions.

The poll found 72 percent of likely 2016 voters said they support the United States signing on to an international agreement on climate change.

The Benenson Strategy Group conducted the polling for the environmental organizations Sierra Club and Union of Concerned Scientists, and surveyed 1,000 expected voters.

Sixty-five percent of respondents said they thought the United States “should take the lead and make meaningful reductions in its carbon emissions and other gases that may cause global warming.” Even a majority of Republican respondents -- 52 percent –- expressed support for the U.S. joining an international agreement on climate change. A much stronger percentage of Democrats, at 88 percent, supported it, as did 73 percent of independents.

John Coequyt, director of Sierra Club's federal and international climate campaign, argues that the findings support the Obama administration’s pursuit of an international agreement at the United Nations meeting in Paris at the end of this year.

"What this poll shows is that the American people actually want an agreement. They support an agreement, and they want their government to be part of one," said Coequyt. "They expect the administration to lead, and to lead by example."

Women were more inclined to support an international agreement, at 79 percent, compared to 63 percent of men. Younger people were also more inclined to support it, with 86 percent of adults ages 18 to 34 endorsing an agreement, as were African American and Hispanic respondents, at 85 percent and 79 percent, respectively.

The poll found that 13 percent of respondents said the U.S. should cut emissions “only if other countries do as well,” while 17 percent said the U.S. “does not need to make significant reductions” -- no matter what other countries do or don't do.

A strong majority of respondents, at 73 percent, said it is important for the U.S. to lead by example and to demonstrate that the country is willing to work with other countries.

Sixty-five percent agreed with the sentiment, "No country is immune from climate change and no country can meet the challenge alone." The pollsters juxtaposed that with a statement that suggested that “China and India are the real problem when it comes to climate change” and that the U.S. would be left with the “short end of the stick” in an international deal. Twenty-six percent of respondents agreed with that statement.

Coequyt argued that this could pose a problem for Republican politicians, many of whom have argued against the U.S. joining an international climate agreement. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has opposed the agreement between the U.S. and China to reduce emissions, as have other Republican leaders in Congress.

"I think what this shows is that that messaging we’re getting from Republicans is not driven by their constituents, it’s driven by the fundraising they have to do to stay in office," said Coequyt. "This sets up a real challenge for candidates who don’t want to be for an agreement. They’re going to have to basically take unpopular positions."

Parties to the United Nations climate negotiations are due to submit their individual pledges under the agreement this week. Mexico, Norway and the European Union nations had already submitted theirs as of last week. The U.S. is expected to submit its pledges by the March 31 deadline.

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