Yale Poll: Swing Voters Want Action on Climate

September 24, 2012


Only about 7 percent of likely voters have not yet decided whether they will support Barack Obama or Mitt Romney in the 2012 election, a new national survey finds. But on the topic of climate change, at least, these undecideds look more like Obama supporters than Romney voters.

Undecided voters are more likely than Romney voters to see climate change as an important issue, and their desire for government action approaches levels seen in Obama voters. What’s more, undecideds are as likely as Obama supporters to believe that global warming is happening and that humans are causing it.

“We were surprised to look at how undecided voters broke on this issue, that they were much more similar to Obama voters than they were to Romney voters,” study researcher Anthony Leiserowitz, the director of the Yale University Project on Climate Change Communication, told LiveScience.

The new survey queried a nationally representative sample of 1,061 American adults, who filled out an online questionnaire on their voting plans and their climate-change beliefs. People chosen to be on the survey panel who did not own a computer or have an Internet connection were given one, ensuring that older and poorer Americans were not left out of the sample.

For Romney and Obama voters, the margin of error of the findings is plus or minus 5 percentage points. For undecided voters, the margin of error is plus or minus 11 percentage points.

Sixty-one percent of the undecided voters said they see global warming as an “important issue” they’ll consider when making their choice. Seventy-five percent of Obama supporters said the same, as did 32 percent of likely Romney voters. In many ways, undecided voters match likely Obama voters with their climate-change concern: 80 percent believe the globe is warming, compared with 86 percent of Obama voters. (In contrast, 45 percent of Romney voters accept that global warming is happening.) [10 Climate Myths Busted]

Yale Project on Climate Change Communication:

Global warming is an important issue for undecided voters and likely Obama voters when voting for President
Though few likely voters say global warming is the “single-most important” issue to them in this election, majorities of likely Obama voters (75%) and Undecideds (61%) say it will be one of several important issues determining their vote for President. Only 32% of likely Romney voters say it will be one of the “important issues” determining their vote.

Desire for Presidential and Congressional action
Undecided voters and likely Obama voters say that President Obama (64% and 61% respectively) and Congress (72% and 78%) should be “doing more” about global warming. By contrast, fewer than half of likely Romney voters think the President or Congress should be doing more (35% and 35% respectively) and, in fact, are more inclined to say they should be doing less to address global warming (47% and 44%).

Bipartisan agreement that the U.S. should use more renewable energy sources
There is broad agreement among all likely voters – 85% of likely Obama voters, 83% of undecided voters, and 73% of likely Romney voters – that the U.S. should use more renewable energy sources (e.g., solar, wind, and geothermal) in the future.

However, while more than half of Undecideds and likely Obama voters say that in the future the U.S. should use fewer fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and gas (55% and 65% respectively), fewer than half of likely Romney voters agree (38%).

Is global warming happening?
80% of undecided voters believe that global warming is happening, while only 3% believe it is not happening – which is very similar to likely Obama voters (86% and 4% respectively).  By contrast, 45% of likely Romney voters believe global warming is happening. In fact, one out of three likely Romney voters believes it is not happening.


The cause of global warming
Two out of three Undecideds (65%) believe that if global warming is happening, it is mostly human caused, the same as likely Obama voters (65%). Only 27% of likely Romney voters, however, believe that global warming is mostly human caused, while fully half say global warming is caused by natural changes in the environment.


28 Responses to “Yale Poll: Swing Voters Want Action on Climate”

  1. omnologos Says:

    If they’re so much on Obama’s side on global warming, and yet they’re undecided, doesn’t that mean global warming is NOT the clincher for those people?

    • jasonpettitt Says:

      “Though few likely voters say global warming is the “single-most important” issue to them in this election, majorities of likely Obama voters (75%) and Undecideds (61%) say it will be one of several important issues determining their vote for President.”

      • omnologos Says:

        “one of several”? You’re confirming my point.

        And I thought only Deniers wouldn’t take global warming as “the single-most important issue to them”?

        • jasonpettitt Says:

          ‘“one of several”? You’re confirming my point.’

          It’s not your point. It’s our point. It’s what it says in the Article. I’m not so much confirming your cunning intellect as reading the post out to you.

          • omnologos Says:

            “global warming is not the clincher”. That’s the point.

          • jasonpettitt Says:

            ““global warming is not the clincher”. That’s the point.”

            That would depend wouldn’t it.

            If an undecided voter had a number of issues that were important to him or her, and found that each presidential candidate was fairly equally matched otherwise then global warming might indeed be the clincher for them.

            “And I thought only Deniers wouldn’t take global warming as “the single-most important issue to them”?”

            That would say more about you than anyone else. As the article reports, it’s one of a number of issues that undecided people say are important when deciding who to vote for this presidential election.

          • omnologos Says:

            If GW (not even AGW) is one of.several issues then what’s Peter been blogging about? If we’re facing a Planetary Emergency what are those still undecided voters but ignorant deniers?

            After all they might still vote for Evil Mitt, if some other of.those “several issues” outside climate change appear better dealt by the non-incumbent.

            Swing voters don’t want action on climate. Even taking the poll’s result at face value they might “be inclined to ask for action”, but could as well forego it in exchange of better care for something else.

          • jasonpettitt Says:

            “Swing voters don’t want action on climate.” ~ omnologos

            According to the article 70% of undecided voters think that the President and Congress should be doing more about global warming.

    • They may not know what President Obama’s policy on climate change is? Once they learn more about it, they may decide to vote for him, I think.


    • Alteredstory Says:

      “Swing” doesn’t necessarily mean “undecided”, it just means they don’t have a record of voting consistently for one side or the other.

      Also, it can be difficult for somebody to ignore positions on other issues like war, abortion, religion and so on. What this study shows is that where once climate change was more or less a back-burner issue, it’s becoming more urgent.

  2. […] LiveScience: Only about 7 percent of likely voters have not yet decided whether they will support Barack Obama or Mitt Romney in the 2012 election, a new national survey finds. But on the topic of …  […]

  3. sailrick Says:

    So Romney is out of step, even with his own voters, on renewable energy

  4. Wes Says:

    Obama seems determined to be the Neville Chamberlain of climate. He will “express concern” and have meetings, etc, etc and not do anything significant. In this he reflects the desires of most of the American people, which is to do something as long as it doesn’t disturb our comfortable lifestyle.

    Do we have a Churchill waiting in the wings? I think not. It’s doubtful that the American people will accept the radical measures necessary until it’s too late for them to do any good. Then they will blame Obama.

  5. […] Link: Yale Poll: Swing Voters Want Action on Climate « Climate Denial … […]

  6. The economy is the most important issue and that is a fact.
    China and India are full of poor people and guess what they DO NOT CARE about pollution and neither does any other weak Socialist economic country out there care about Global Warming and that is also a fact. If the USA does not fix its economy nothing will happen to address Global Warming. In this area ONLY ROMNEY will succeed, the sad reality is the Left Wingers and Racial voters are going to destroy any chance of America having Romney as President and the USA becoming a powerful economy again.

    • Alteredstory Says:

      Grant, you need to get out more.

      Every other country in the world with the possible exception of a couple major oil producers is working on this issue, and people all over the planet are already fighting to cope with the changing climate.

      Tell the folks starving in Somalia, or recovering from the Pakistan flood, or the Russian heat wave, or the Amazonian drought, or the Chinese drought that really, the economy is what they’re worried about.

      The sad reality is that the Right Wing obsession with money has allowed you and your ilk to lose touch with reality to the point where you think that when droughts, floods, wildfires, spreading disease, and unreliable season change are hammering people all over the world, really the REAL problem is money.

      You’ve managed to convert supposed rationality into a child-like belief in the magic of “the economy” as a solution to everything, in defiance of all evidence. The world is not flat, evolution is real, the earth orbits around the sun, and climate change is the most important problem facing us today and for the foreseeable future.

  7. Alteredstory
    I make the argument that the USA is powerless without a strong economy.
    Economic Reality is not a simple fools topic as you arrogantly suggest it is what drives EVERYTHING around us.
    Romney has the experience and desire to fix the economy and this is the greatest issue on the table right now.

    Nothing you said disproves the basis of my argument, that any country which does NOT have a strong economy will do anything significant about global warming.
    The Germans for example (a strong economy) focus on highly developed products and make billions. There recent small scale focus on renewable energy is only because they have a strong and confident economy. Romney will improve American Business and Manufacturing CONFIDENCE in this context. You fail to see the reality of how the world really works.
    Capitalism is not evil it is Corrupt Capitalism that is the real evil that has afflicted America, and this will continue if we do not get significant changes, I know Romney will go in the right direction, you don’t believe it because you don’t understand the real issues so don’t act like a smart ass.
    The people in all the countries you quote do not care about Global Warming, because they will be thinking about “EVIL” money and how to feed themselves.
    The Economy is what is important today and you should stop dreaming that the masses will suddenly wake up to what is happening because they won’t.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      German “small scale” focus?
      If you can say that with a straight face, it raises doubts about your good faith, or your sanity.


      Renewables now account for 25 percent of energy production, up from 21 percent last year, the country’s energy industry association (BDEW) said in a statement that reinforced Germany’s position as a leader in green technology.

      Wind energy was the largest contributor of green power, accounting for 9.2 percent of all energy output, BDEW said.

      Biomass, or material acquired from living organisms, accounted for 5.7 percent and solar technology for 5.3 percent.

      Solar energy saw the biggest increase, up 47 percent from the previous year. Germany is the world’s top market for power converted from solar radiation and its installed capacity accounts for more than a third of the global total.

      Germany aims to derive 35 percent of its total energy needs from renewable sources by 2035.

    • Alteredstory Says:

      I’m curious – what “experience” do you think that Romney has to fix the economy? He didn’t help Massachusetts out when he was governor there, and I don’t know if you knew this, but America isn’t a venture capital firm.

      You throw around a lot of generalities and then accuse me of “failing to see how the world really works”, while ignoring that the Germans, for example (a strong economy) are putting FAR more effort into renewable energy than we are, and that, along with their (gasp) socialist policies is PART OF WHY THEY’RE STRONG.

      American business and manufacturing cannot advance if they’re constantly hampered by the global effects of climate change, and by policies that shackle them to the outdated and inefficient energy infrastructure of the 19th and 20th centuries.

      I’m not sure why you think money is evil – I think it’s a tool (and that people who hoard tools are a bit strange and maybe shouldn’t be given lots of power because of their big pile of tools).

      I also think that people whose livelihood depends on agriculture or other forms of direct interaction with ecosystems tend to notice changes to said ecosystems. The evidence does not support your arguments.

      The economy IS important, but it is not MORE important than climate change. Not by a long shot.

      And on top of that, all evidence points to dealing with climate change and our contribution to it head-on as something that will BOOST the economy, whereas ignoring it means we are constantly running around playing catchup which is the very definition of uncertainty.

      If we take your advice, rather than devising a strategy and confronting the problem, we’ll be ignoring the problem, and flinching every time someone sneezes because all we’re doing is waiting for the next hit to come.

  8. Greenman
    I said “RECENT small scale” focus so you should apply your analytical skills better, 4% therefore this is a SANE statement .
    You go way outside the scope of fighting Global Warming on this website which is a shame really.
    For example the way you constantly imply the Republican party is under the TOTAL control of the fossil fuel industry is also a mistake because the democrats are no better. The political economic reality is not as simple as you constantly make out on your website, and by doing this you damage the real goal which is to fight against global warming. What point is it to give renewable energy a tax credit when the whole economy goes down the toilet ? The Larger econimic issues that drive everything will make your articles irrelevant.
    The fact is Global Warming is not going to be addressed politically right now and NOT until the economy is fixed, until that point you need to choose the right man for the Job.
    Small scale initiatives will not work until there is a united approach witch invites all people to participate and believe in this. By insulting every person who appears to fit into a typical right wing denier frame is also a bit mistake.

    My previous points are valid and very important and I will keep making it. I beleive fully in the fact Global Warming is real and dangerous but I disagree totally that the Democratic party is what america needs right now.
    If you analyzed Romney and Obama the way you analyze idiots like Lord Monkton, you would soon realise Obama has no ability and has demonstated no ability whatsoever and Romney has all the skills, experience and ability needed for the job at hand which is to strengthen the Economy and prepare America for the time when Global Warming will get properly addressed over the next decade.

    • Wes Says:

      It’s scary to think that someone can recite that fantasy about Romney’s abilities with the blog equivalent of a straight face. His policy is clearly – lower the already low taxes on the wealthy, raise taxes on the stressed out middle class to compensate, move jobs offshore. In addition, he’s demonstrated an astounding capacity to insult our allies and embarrass the USA on every foreign visit. How the weather over there in that alternate universe that you inhabit?

      On the other hand, Obama has been a mixed blessing. His silence on climate is a severe disappointment, as is his support of fossil fuels, but his administration continues to provide at least token support for renewable energy, in spite of the fierce opposition of the GOP Congress.

      The unfortunate truth is that we cannot reverse climate change while growing the economy and multiplying the human population of the planet. Business as usual is not an option, as much as we would like it to be. Our choice is to minimize the pain by doing it voluntarily (trading economic growth for climate remediation), or allow the natural course of events to reduce the human population involuntarily, with the great pain and suffering that this will entail. The Arctic is telling us that we don’t have a lot of time to make up our minds.

      • omnologos Says:

        Alas, as shown by countless politicians including Obama, we will only ‘know the policy’ of Romney or anybody else after the fact, not from electioneering and slogans.

        • Wes Says:

          No argument from me on that. See my comments on Obama. However, I’m not sure what you’re suggesting we do with Romney and his fan base in the GOP. We have to sort of take him at his word until we get actual performance stats. Romney is tough to handicap since he changes his story with every news cycle, but we have to go with something.

    • Alteredstory Says:

      Grant, if your argument about the economy was valid, we would have made more progress by now – the economy wasn’t in the gutter for the entirety of the last 50 years.

      That said, this “now is not the time” argument is idiotic. In WW2, we didn’t wait until the economy was better to act on a global threat, we mobilized the whole bloody country, got the job done, and were left with an incredible manufacturing capability.

      That’s the scale of action we need right now. I don’t think it will happen, but if we borrowed money NOW, and used it to put people to work updating the grid, improving our water infrastructure, vamping up the weatherization project, getting solar, wind, geothermal, tidal, and sewage power going, refitting every government building, and so on, we would put MILLIONS to work in all sectors of the economy, our tax base would boom, businesses would thrive with the sudden and sustained increase in employed people, air quality would improve, releasing part of the health burden, and the economy would improve.

      You don’t improve an economy by waiting for a president to fix things. NO president has that kind of power. It takes a joint effort WITH congress, and simply cutting high-end taxes and regulations and WAITING has never been shown to work.


      In short, you’re basing your entire argument on a fantasy that was debunked years ago.

      • Wes Says:

        Thank you! I’ve been saying that since WWII was the only other human caused catastrophe with world wide consequences we should look at what it took to get people’s attention. Like the rising temps and rising CO2 today, people ignored the rising Third Reich, especially in America since it was all happening way over there. Without Pearl Harbor, would America have entered the war? Will there be a climate Pearl Harbor or will we wait too long?
        Your comments about the joint effort required is spot on. But the President provides leadership, and without that nothing happens.

        • Alteredstory Says:

          The problem, as far as I can tell, is that there’s nobody to kill to deal with this crisis. There’s no army to defeat or city to nuke.

          Any single event can be dismissed as an outlier, or any of a dozen other things that allow us to ignore it.

          There is no Pearl Harbor to be had here, and we have the power of vastly wealthy corporations and individuals who are spending millions to ensure that even if there WAS a “Pearl Harbor” moment, most people wouldn’t notice.

          This is one of those situations where we have to keep working on all fronts – doing the work ourselves, getting our communities to do it, voting, raising awareness, pushing our representatives in state and federal government, and doing anything else we can think of.

          Unfortunately, we basically need to be doing everything all at once, which means a high burn-out risk, so we ALSO need to be taking care of each other.

          If we get this done, people are going to look back and replace the term “renaissance man” with something pertaining to the hardcore climate activists of today – the ones who are eloquent speakers, and know how to can food, and can build generators and machines, and create moving artwork about the issue, and know enough medicine to be useful in a crisis, and so on.

          We have fewer resources than the forces trying to stay the course, which means we have to draw on ourselves more.

          Ok, done ranting now 😛

  9. […] 2012/09/24: PSinclair: Yale Poll: Swing Voters Want Action on Climate […]

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