Americans know a good idea when they see one. No matter how many millions of dollars the deep-pocketed polluters spend on spreading mistruths this election season, new polling released by the NRDC Action Fund today shows that voters in 23 close Congressional races overwhelmingly support clean energy legislation and would be more likely to support candidates who do the same.
In fact, our polls found on average voters are almost 20% MORE likely to vote for someone who supports a clean energy bill. This may not sound like a lot, but in a year where 92 Congressional races sit in the "lean" or "tossup" columns on The Cook Political Report, that 20% not only counts, it is a big deal. In fact, a majority of voters (almost 53% on average) in tight races around the country said they are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports a climate bill.
Still, the news for clean energy gets better.
We don't believe that voters will fall for the fossil fuel industry's misleading claims. That is why we went head to head to test our messaging against what the industry has been saying. Our poll presented our opposition's main, misleading talking point - that a climate bill is akin to an energy tax. Voters overwhelmingly (spread +18.8%) rejected this idea in favor of a bill that creates millions of new jobs, reduces our use of foreign oil, holds corporate polluters accountable and cuts the pollution that causes climate change.
In some races, the difference is even more pronounced. In Iowa's Third District (IA-3), currently represented by Congressman Leonard Boswell, voters were more likely to support the candidate who supported a clean energy bill by 33 percentage points! Voters there agreed with pro clean energy messaging 62% of the time. In the Pennsylvania's Eighth District (PA-8), currently represented by Congressman Patrick Murphy, voters were more likely to support the candidate who supported clean energy by 19 percentage points and voters favored the green message 58% of the time.
These are really significant results because time and again, a majority of likely voters are on the side of clean energy. You have to remember that opponents of clean energy are pouring millions into front groups who are spreading misinformation about the issues. We can't even come close to their per capita spending. And yet clean energy legislation is still polling ahead in nearly every bellwether district. And Americans still see clean energy for what it is: a great investment in our nation's future.
I guess there really are some things money can't buy, even in politics. Despite dumping $175 million into the political system in 2009 and $74.5 million in 2010 and donating more than $7 million to candidates last quarter, the oil and gas industry still can't persuade the public that it's not better for America to move ahead with cleaner energy alternatives.
Even in a coal state like Ohio, voters support renewables by double digits over coal and nukes. A great example is Ohio's Sixteenth District (OH-16), currently represented by Congressman John Boccieri, where our poll found that 69% of people support investments in renewables, besting coal at 58%. We found similar results in almost every district we polled, like Pennsylvania Eleven (PA-11), currently represented by Congressman Paul Kanjorski, where 73% favor investing in renewables compared to 62% who want more coal. Even way down in South Carolina's Fifth District (SC-5), currently represented by Congressman John Spratt, voters are more favorable to investing in renewables at 72% than coal at 57%.
So the question becomes, why aren't those who voted for a climate bill winning? Why is the opposition focused on painting this vote as a negative? There are a lot of answers but I think most agree this is an anti-incumbent year where most politicos expect poor turnout. I think many would also agree that climate champions have spent too much time running away from this issue instead of educating their voters about why this was not only a good vote for the environment, but also for our national security and economy. These poll results suggest they better get their act together because they are missing an opportunity. Voters are primed to embrace candidates who show leadership on this issue.
Opponents of clean energy will continue to write fat checks, but the climate champions clearly have the advantage if they play their cards right because voters support renewable power, economic growth, green jobs, and clean air--that's priceless and that is one way to win.
See the polls at http://www.nrdcactionfund.org/polls/october2010/
Follow Heather Taylor-Miesle on Twitter: www.twitter.com/NRDC_AF