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POLITICO: Poll - EPA's cross-state and utility rules a hit with voters

By Alex Guillen
Politico
The vast majority of voters, including many Republicans, support the EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule and the agency’s utility MACT, according to bipartisan poll results released Wednesday.

The vast majority of voters, including many Republicans, support the EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule and the agency’s utility MACT, according to bipartisan poll results released Wednesday.

The poll found that respondents support implementing CSAPR by 67 percent to 16 percent and the utility MACT by 77 percent to 9 percent.

The survey was commissioned by Ceres, a coalition of investors and environmental advocacy groups, and conducted by the Democratic polling firm Hart Research Associates and the Republican pollsters GS Strategy Group.

“There aren’t that many issues these days that cross party lines quite like this one does,” Geoff Garin of Hart Research said in a teleconference with reporters.

The measures enjoyed near-unanimous support from Democratic respondents and even got strong support from Republicans. For example, 63 percent of GOP respondents said they support the utility MACT, while just 20 percent oppose it. The cross-state air rule got support from a plurality of Republicans — 48 percent — versus the 30 percent who opposed it.

“As the Republican in the project, I feel it was my responsibility to poke holes in the arguments to see if they can withstand the public debate,” Greg Strimple of the GS Strategy Group said.

But he couldn’t find any. “Public support stands very firm on behalf of these new rules,” he added.

Even when directly presented information about the potential costs of implementing the new rules — which industry and many Republicans have criticized as exorbitantly high — respondents had mixed reactions.

Fifty-eight percent said the argument that the rules may increase their utility bills is convincing. Further, 52 percent called it convincing that the rules would worsen unemployment and hurt the economy.

Strimple said that while those numbers break into the majority, they don’t pass his usual rule of thumb for declaring an argument highly effective.

“I always look for an argument to pass 60 percent or better to say, ‘Wow, this is going to work for me.’ And right now the best we could do was 58 percent,” he said. “People understand this may increase rates in some areas, but they’re still overwhelmingly in favor of it.”

Strimple said congressional Republicans have oversimplified the issue by painting the EPA with a broad stroke.

“All of the EPA rules are getting kind of put together in one big bunch and I think the Republican view to stop the advance of government has created an inability to separate the good from the bad,” he said. “I think it’s a missed opportunity at this point more than it is a political liability.”

Among the poll’s other findings, 75 percent said the EPA, rather than Congress, should determine new standards. Even those who identified their feelings toward the EPA as negative preferred the agency over Congress 52 percent to 48 percent.

Also, the most important factor in support of the rules was public health, with 54 percent identifying that as their primary concern.

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