Maps show disconnect between public opinion and CPP lawsuits

Maps show disconnect between public opinion and CPP lawsuits

For those who use public opinion data to guide their outreach strategies and messages, the launch of Yale’s Climate Opinion Maps in May was kind of mind-blowing.

Based on years of national survey data, the interactive mapping tool provides extremely accurate estimates of public opinion about climate change in states, congressional districts and counties across the United States. It is the first tool of its kind to offer such a specific view of what Americans in discrete geographic areas likely think about several aspects of climate change – including setting strict CO2 limits on coal-fired power plants.

The value of having state-level data was highlighted last week when the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication (YPCCC) released a well-packaged collection of stats showing most Americans support the Clean Power Plan in 23 of the 26 states suing to stop it. The release made headlines in a handful of media outlets (including U.S. News and Mother Jones) and aptly illustrates the growing divide between legislators and the public on whether to address climate change.

“America’s history of controversy over climate change and the legal and political challenges to the EPA’s Clean Power Plan might suggest that the nation is divided over regulating carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plants. Our research finds the opposite: a large majority of Americans overall support the approach,” YPCCC noted in its release.

As we discussed in a Climate Access roundtable in June, regional opinion data is an invaluable tool for climate advocates doing outreach to media, policy makers, political operatives and key legislators. As states, counties and municipalities take the lead on climate action, local climate opinion data is now more newsworthy than it ever was. Groups like Citizens’ Climate Lobby have shared Yale’s map data with volunteers, encouraging them to use it in local letters to the editor and in media pushes. Meanwhile, Climate Nexus has sent the information directly to congressional offices to ensure they know what climate policy approaches are supported by their constituents.

Climate Action Campaign is circulating information about public support for limiting CO2 emissions from power plants to communications staff in each of CAC’s member groups, representatives from more than 60 CAC partner groups and key allies in the Administration and on the Hill. They’re planning to include the data in a forthcoming memo to media outlets covering climate and energy issues as a way to highlight momentum behind the CPP, as world leaders head into the Paris talks.

“We found this data particularly useful in the wake of the coalition of anti-CPP states filing suit to block the CPP after it was published in the Federal Register. We are looking for ways to undermine the narrative that ‘26 states have filed suit against the CPP’,” David Di Martino of Blue Engine Media & Messaging, a DC-based firm that works on behalf of CAC, told Climate Access. “The data demonstrating that a majority of parties in those states support the CPP was useful in that endeavor.”

UPDATE (Nov. 13): Yale’s map data was bolstered by the release of state-level polling (commissioned by the Sierra Club) showing significant support for the Clean Power Plan in six key states, including Missouri and Ohio. In Missouri and Ohio respectively, 56% and 64% favor the CPP and 64% and 65% trust EPA scientists to make decisions regarding air and water pollution limits over elected members of Congress.

Want to learn more about Yale’s Climate Opinion Maps and how they’re being used by climate groups? Listen to our roundtable recording or read this blog about building local support for carbon rules.