Poll Shows Gulf Spill Bolsters Support for Climate Legislation

The Gulf oil spill has had a profound impact on public support for climate legislation, with 61 percent of Americans now in favor of a bill that would limit pollution “in part by charging energy companies for carbon pollution in electricity or fuels like oil.”

The Washington Post first reported on the poll (PDF), which was conducted for Clean Energy Works, an coalition of environmental groups by Obama pollster Joel Benenson.

The poll comes days before Senators John Kerry and Joe Lieberman release their highly-anticipated energy bill Wednesday.

Other key findings include:

* 54 percent would be more likely to re-elect their Senator if he or she voted for the bill (just 30 percent would be less likely to re-elect).

* 51 percent would be less likely to re-elect their Senator if he or she voted against the bill (just 30 percent would be more likely).

* 39 percent of voters now say they are more likely to support it in the wake of the oil spill.

Last summer a Zogby poll found 71 percent of likely voters in favor of the Waxman-Markey bill which passed the House, but that poll did not mention the potential costs of the bill.

The Clean Energy Works poll specifically addresses this issue, both in the question cited above and with another question, which contrasted two views of climate legislation. When asked to compare the two views:

59% of voters agree that “Now is the time for Senators to take action.  Oil companies and lobbyists have fought energy reform for decades to protect their profits.  Our dependence on oil hurts our economy, helps our enemies and puts our security at risk.  It’s time to put America back in control – with clean energy that’s made in America and works for America.”

..while just 31% agree that “Senators would be wrong to try to use this tragedy to pass a huge new Washington program and job-killing energy tax.  Their plan will raise the price of gas right at the pump, hurt middle class families and stop oil drilling in America, which is a big part of the long-term solution to making us less dependent on foreign oil.”

The poll of 650 likely voters was conducted May 4-5 and has a margin of error of 4 percent.

Other polls…

Reuters has a nice summary of other polls, including one by Republicans for Environmental Conservation that finds 52 percent of Republicans support energy policy that would cap emissions, and another from the NRDC that finds 7 out 10 Americans want energy policy fast-tracked after the spill.

BC (Ben) Upham is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. He has written for the New York Times, and was a writer and editor for News Communications, Inc., a local paper consortium serving Manhattan. When he's not blogging on green issues -- and especially renewable energy -- he's hiking in the Angeles Mountains or hanging out at El Matador.