Campaign season typically invites all kinds of armchair commentary about what voters want, and this year is proving to be fertile ground for unsubstantiated theorizing which quickly becomes "conventional wisdom" - with or without evidence.
Conventional wisdom may be comforting, but it doesn't tell us much about the world as it really is. After all, conventional wisdom used to hold that the Earth is flat and at the center of the universe. (Some candidates - not naming any names here - may still believe both, actually.)
This election season, it has become popular to claim that candidates who supported clean energy legislation are less likely to be reelected because of that support. But there's little, if any, data to support that claim.
Two recent polls, conducted by Public Policy Polling that we are releasing today, cover races in Minnesota's 1st and 6th districts where things are pretty tight and the "conventional wisdom" is proving dead wrong.
The poll found that an overwhelming 77% of voters support investments in clean, renewable energy. That compares to only 44% who favor building more nuclear power plants and 40% who are interested in more coal.
Furthermore, 51% of respondents are more likely to support a candidate who supported an energy bill that would "create millions of new jobs, reduce our use of foreign oil, hold corporate polluters accountable and cut the pollution that causes climate change." Only 29% said such a vote would make them less likely to support such a candidate - an advantage of 22 percentage points for clean energy supporters.
Fortunately, this isn't news to Congressman Tim Walz - who did support the very piece of legislation described and who talks about the issue right on his campaign website:
"With oil prices reaching another record high...the time for action on renewable energy and American energy independence is now. Ending our dependence on foreign oil and using renewable energy to help fight global warming will make our nation stronger. And at a time when our economy is struggling, these investments will help create hundreds of thousands of new jobs."
Obviously Walz and his constituents understand that clean energy and climate legislation makes our nation stronger, creates jobs at home and reduces pollution.
Which leads us to our other race, MN-6, where all of this sounds like tyranny to incumbent, Michele Bachmann. She has characterized the House-passed clean energy bill as a take-over of "every aspect" of people's lives which, I hope we can universally agree, is the exaggeration of the century.
But then, Bachmann (who is also the chair of the House Tea Party Caucus), is well-known for fear-mongeringand spreading misinformation about the science and costs of addressing climate change. That's consistent with her fierce opposition to all kinds of environmental initiatives. The League of Conservation Voters named Bachmann as one of its Dirty Dozen and awarded her zero points during the 111th Congress. According to LCV's scorecard, Bachmann has not only failed to support any pro-environment bills, but she has also actively undermined funding existing programs.
Congresswoman Bachmann's own legislative initiatives champion the "drill, baby, drill" approach to destroying Federal lands, risking more offshore drilling accidents and dumping more and more pollution into our atmosphere. Her major donors include the Citizens United PAC, Eric Cantor's Every Republican is Crucial PAC, and other conservative organizations and fossil fuel front groups.
According to our polling, Representative Bachmann's radical views put her out of step with her district, despite the heavy dose of Tea Party propaganda that constantly flows from Bachmann and her allies. Just a few little tidbits from our poll:
Voters in Bauchmann's district favor investments in renewables (64%) over building more nuclear power plants (54%) and favor investing in new technology over using more coal (47%).
And when we asked voters if they would be more or less likely to vote for a candidate who would support a clean energy bill, we found that 47% would be more likely, while only 38% would be less likely (the other 16% didn't really care or weren't sure). Seems pretty compelling to me. (Those polled were told, "Supporters say the energy bill will create millions of new jobs, reduce our use of foreign oil, hold corporate polluters accountable and cut the pollution that causes climate change. Opponents say the bill will cost companies money and is like an energy tax that would actually reduce jobs.")
These kinds of results aren't a surprise. In poll after poll conducted by Public Policy Polling and released last week by NRDC Action Fund, the indisputable fact is that the majority of voters support Congressional efforts to address climate change. And why wouldn't they when one considers that a bill like this would mean more jobs, greater security and less pollution. Despite the opposition's best (or should I say, worst) intentions, the public - and more importantly for candidates, the voters - get it.
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