PORTLAND, OREGON – A new survey of likely voters in four Oregon Senate Districts showed that there is almost universal recognition that changes in the natural climate have occurred in recent years, but there is a split in opinion regarding what is behind these changes. Opinion is also split on whether legislation at the state level should be enacted to deal with the issue.
While 93% of likely voters in Senate Districts 1, 5, 12, and 16 said climate change as an identifiable phenomenon is occurring, 7% said it does not exist. Thirty-one percent said it is caused entirely by human activity, while 20% said they think it is merely the result of natural weather patterns at this time in history. Another 43% said they think the changes are occurring because of a combination of the two factors.
Nearly three-quarters said they think some harm is the result of climate change, with 37% saying the main harm is to nature. Others said the main harm would come to them personally or to their family, with 20% concerned it would harm human health, 15% saying it would drive up the costs of living, and 2% concerned its major impact would result in a loss of jobs. Another 26% said they don’t think there would be any impact to themselves or to a family member.
So what to do? Likely voters presented with a proposal under consideration by the Oregon Legislature to deal with the issue – a so-called “Cap and Trade” law that would tax carbon emissions and use that tax revenue to fund projects that reduce or capture carbon emissions – was initially favored only marginally and then rejected as more facts became known.
Asked simply whether they would favor such a Cap and Trade bill in the Oregon legislature, 51% said they would support it, while 43% said they would oppose such a law. Support was strongest among Democrats, where 82% supported the legislation initially. When learning about how gasoline and other energy prices, including electricity prices, would increase as a result of such legislation, Democratic support dropped negligibly to 79%.
Considering the possible increased costs to Oregon households and businesses, 52% of voters in these rural State Senate districts said that, all things considered, they would urge their own legislator to reject such a carbon tax bill, compared to 44% who said that they would still urge their legislator to support such a law.
The results for Republicans and independents were more pronounced. Among Republican voters, initial support stood at 23%, but dropped to 10% when considering the possible increases in gas and electricity prices. Among independent voters, support started at 50% and dropped six points to 44% when informed about the hike in energy prices.
The survey asked voters about a possible 16 cent to 25 cent increase in gas prices in the first year such Cap and Trade legislation would be enacted, with subsequent increases also likely in later years. The survey did not cite a specific percentage increase in electricity and natural gas prices, but rather just asked about possible increases in such pricing.
Among independent voters, 55% said they would be less likely to support a Cap and Trade bill, knowing it could trigger higher gasoline prices, while 56% of indies said the same about possible resulting hikes in electricity and natural gas prices. Among Republicans, 80% said they would be more opposed to such legislation, considering the possible hikes in energy prices.
The survey also found that there is widespread skepticism that such a climate change bill would actually have the desired effect, let alone be cost-effective for Oregon residents. Nearly two-thirds of voters – 63% – said they would agree with taxpayer watchdog groups who contend that a Cap and Trade bill would be forcing them to pay more for gas and utilities to subsidize “eco-friendly” projects that may not be profitable or even self-sustaining without taxpayer support. Just 16% said they disagreed with this statement and that it would make them more likely to support the bill.
Washington State voters last year rejected a carbon tax bill similar to the one under consideration in Salem, and Oregon voters appear, by a two-to-one margin, to agree Washington voters got it right. While 42% of those surveyed said that knowing their neighbors to the north rejected such a tax would make them more likely to oppose such a law in Oregon, 21% said it would make them more likely to support such a bill.
Clout Research conducted a telephone survey of 613 likely voters in four Oregon State Senate Districts regarding environmental and public policy issues. The survey was conducted January 21-23, 2019 and included interviews with voters in both landline and mobile phone-only households. It carries a confidence interval of 95% and a margin of error of +/- 3.93 percentage points.
Clout Research is an opinion research and voter data modeling firm based in Dublin, Ohio working with clients in
politics, business, media, government, and non-profit agencies nationwide for more than a decade. It uses the latest
technology in research, telephony, texting, and big data to help clients identify opportunities and challenges to
influence lawmakers, win elections, and improve service to their clients, constituents, and voters. Since its founding
in 2005, it has worked with notable success for clients at the highest levels, from presidential campaigns
to governor to township trustee and city council. Founder and Pollster Fritz Wenzel is a recognized leader in the field
and has shared his expertise on nearly every major television and cable news network in America and on many others around the world.