How Climate Change Attitudes Affect the Gov Race


Barely noticed in the stories that ran last week based on a Reuters /Ipsos poll (that showed Democrats Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer with “narrow” leads in their races for governor and U.S. Senate) was this nugget in the piece by Steve Holland of Reuters:

“The survey also found a wide disparity between the parties about the state’s climate change and environmental regulations. It said 68 percent of Democrats believe green policies will drive investment in green technology and jobs, while 62 percent of Republicans think they will create higher energy costs.”

Barely noticed*, perhaps, because the Reuters mainbar passed over the really important news , buried in the survey data that Ipsos graciously shared with Calbuzz:

That half the registered voters agree that “California regulations regarding climate change and the environment drive investment in green technology and create green jobs.” That’s compared to just 38% who say those regulations “will create higher energy costs and lead to cuts in traditional jobs.”

That’s essentially a split of 50-38% in favor of AB32, the state’s pioneering climate change law that some oil companies and others are trying to repeal with Proposition 23. And even more important than the mirror stands by party the Reuters story noted (Democrats 68-21% for green jobs; Republicans 62-27 for higher costs and job losses) was this number: Among independents 56% said climate change regulations would create green jobs while just 30% said they would drive up costs and unemployment.

Loyal Calbuzz readers will recall that we have argued for some time that 1) the environment is a threshold issue for independent voters, much like choice: if a candidate is seen as “wrong” on the issue, voters don’t care what their stance is on the really important issues like economy and jobs and 2) Meg Whitman, in trying not to get outflanked on the right by Steve Poizner in the GOP primary, made a strategic blunder by declaring herself an implacable foe of AB32.

Although Whitman has not yet taken a position on Prop. 23, it’s hard to see how she could justify NOT supporting it, since she herself has called for suspending the measure because she’s afraid it’s a job killer.

It’s amusing when big foot Washington reporters realize that something happening in California has national significance, like Ron Brownstein’s story in National Journal looking at the movement to repeal AB32.  But really, they miss the practical political point, too, when they argue: “In this grueling economy, California’s climate-change law still faces a tough struggle in November.”

With Gov. Schwarzenegger, former Secretary of State George Shultz, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and a host of other business interests, including clean-tech firms, lining up to defend AB32 (and with “Yes” twice as hard to win on the ballot than “No”), what makes the battle over the measure most interesting is the effect it will have on the governor’s and U.S. Senate races (Republican Carly Fiorina is also unrelentingly against AB32).

We’ll know more when new survey data is available from the Field Poll, but in the most recent surveys PPIC had AB32’s approval at 66% and Field had it at 58%. In addition, Attorney General Jerry Brown gave it a rather crippling official title and summary: “Suspends Air Pollution Control Laws Requiring Major Polluters to Report and Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions.”

The Ipsos Public Affairs survey has some drawbacks: it’s a random digit dialed (RDD) survey in which voters are simply asked if they’re registered to vote and in what party they’re registered. That brings people with unlisted phone numbers into the sample (which you don’t get using the voter list), but it relies on respondents to tell pollsters if they’re actually registered to vote (a somewhat iffy proposition). PPIC still uses RDD; the Field Poll has gone to using the voter list.

BTW, those “narrow” leads reported by Reuters or “small” leads written up by Clifford Young of Ipsos might well have been understated. The Ipsos data shows that Brown leads Whitman 45-39% on the initial question, but when leaners are thrown in, it’s Brown over Whitman 48-41%. Likewise, Boxer leads Fiorina 45-41% in the initial vote but 48-42% when the leaners are added in. The top line report notes “Ipsos does not allocate leaners at this stage of the electoral cycle.”

Calbuzz, however, is happy to include the leaners for both candidates. In the governor’s race, Brown leads 79-14% among Democrats; Whitman leads 82-11% among Republicans and — critically — Brown leads 47-15% among independents.

Also, while Whitman has been making a big push for Latinos (after her muscular anti-illegal-immigration rhetoric in the GOP primary), Ipsos had it 59-34% for Brown among Latinos. And while the Ipsos sample of 600 is too small to look at party by gender or gender by party, we can tell you this: Brown was leading Whitman 46-41% among men but 49-41% among women. To date, as we have argued before, gender pales as an influence on the vote compared to party.

* One political mover and shaker who DID catch the significance of the survey data was our friend Steve Maviglio over at California Majority Report.

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There are 9 comments for this post

  1. avatar thetruthsquad says:

    Whitman could easily justify NOT supporting it because the oil companies dirty energy proposition is far more radical than her one year pause on regulation. Prop 23 would essentially kill the state’s clean energy and clean air law FOREVER; it sets up an economic condition that has only happened 3 times in 30 years. Moreover, it causes chaos in the marketplace because businesses would face uncertainty on whether the law would be in place (or lifted). And there’s nothing businesses hate more than investment uncertainty. Prop 23 is a job- and business-killer, and Whitman could easy give herself middle ground by coming out against it. Let’s hope she does.

    • avatar Andy says:

      How would an executive order suspending AB32 until the Governor felt like reinstating it not be just as chaotic?

      Even more interesting, though, is the next tier of belief that Fiorina is tied to…she doesn’t believe there’s climate change caused by humas. It’s one thing to argue about AB 32; she takes it to a whole other level and I think voters would have far more trouble with that.

  2. avatar Mark Paul says:

    I wonder if it’s possible to draw many conclusions from such a stupidly posed question. After all, the point of climate change policy is to do both A and B: Create green technology and jobs by raising the price of energy from carbon-based fuels, a process that will result in shifting employment away from some traditional jobs (like oil-spill cleanup worker and child asthma respiratory therapist.) It’s not either/or, it’s both/and. The question asks the respondent to make a choice where there is none. The definitive comment on this kind of question is the old beer commercial: Tastes great! No, less filling.

  3. avatar ReilleyFam says:

    It would do both – raise prices on current energy and kill jobs related to that AND create new green jobs and provide for a more sustainable and ultimately cheaper fuel. THE question is can we survive the transition in this economy?

    • avatar SezMe says:

      Speaking of stupidly posed questions ….

      Of course, we can survive the transition. The only issue is how well transition is managed, not something I’d have any confidence in eMeg doing. Well, not much for Jerry either, to be honest.

      A better question is, can we survive if we don’t make the transition.

  4. avatar Ernie Konnyu says:

    We can survive the loss of the AB 32 suspension but losing the gov’s office will nearly wipe the two party system in California.

    Based on the above poll numbers it looks like we will have to convince the independents and some Demos that the deficit spending Democrats, starting with Obama and the California law makers, are the real evil doers on California’s 12% jobless rate. At least eMeg has the do-re-me to beat and beat and beat that “better be credible” message home.

    Yep! Unlike in the East and the South, it looks like it will be a real struggle for the GOP in 2010 Cal.

  5. avatar Ernie Konnyu says:

    Calbuzz analysis of impending Republican doom has inspired the 2010 Republican common sense message in California. It is:

    Californians! With California’s 12% unemployment Obama and the Democrat Legislature are clearly killing our jobs. If you want real paying jobs instead of more government jobs, more welfare and more deficits, Republicans have your back! Give us a shot this November. You sure as hell can’t do any worse with us and you could do very, very well!

    P.S. Never mind that Arnold is a republican. It’s Obama and the the Cal legislature who are running those giant job killing deficits that make us suffer.

    • avatar SezMe says:

      Californians! If you want more deficits, more deficits and, finally, more deficits, Republicans have your hide. You couldn’t do worse!

      Geeze, Ernie, the rejoinders write themselves.

  6. avatar fultontwo says:

    Ernie, you renew my faith in fiction as an artform. Simply saying no to any and all opportunities to use the whole spectum of options that could be available to solve California’s budget issues is not a solution. Watching the far right and far left trade punches in Calif. has done nothing to help the state. What we need is moderates in both parties (we will have to have some new elections to find some of those) to roll up their sleeves to find a solution that includes, additional revenues from a more balanced revenue stream, cuts in those areas where they are appropriate, and a mechanism to ensure that in better days funds are put away for rainy days.

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