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TNC survey takes pulse of voters

January 16, 2019
By JUSTIN A. LEVINE - Outdoors Writer ( , Lake Placid News

A bipartisan sample of likely 2020 New York voters said in a recent survey that climate change is not only happening, but that the state should take concrete steps to address it.

The New York state office of The Nature Conservancy commissioned a survey late last year that found a majority of people view climate change as a serious threat, second only to the cost of health care. In addition, from 2016 to 2018, concern over climate change increased by nine percent.

When asked about sources of energy, solar had a wide range of support, with 93 percent of respondents saying they supported increased use of solar energy. Wind, hydropower and natural gas all have more than 75 percent support as well, while nuclear and coal had far less support. The survey found that there is little change in public opinion on these in the last two years.

Article Photos

Greg Borzilleri, of Lake Placid, paddleboards on Mirror Lake on Dec. 23, 2015. It was an exceptionally warm start to the winter of 2015-2016.
News file photo

New York voters also have a much stronger view of climate change, with 81 percent saying that climate change is definitely happening, compared to only 12 percent that say it's not. According to TNC, nationwide 47 percent of voters are very or extremely sure that climate change is happening, while 67 percent of Empire State voters are very or extremely sure.

Sixty-two percent of New Yorkers say that climate change is caused by humans, 20 percent feel that it's part of a natural cycle and six percent say it's not happening at all. The survey also found that 16 percent of voters don't think climate change will affect them at all, while 59 percent say it will have a big impact on them personally.


New programs

The TNC survey also asked voters about support for two programs, one that would introduce a carbon pollution fee and a second that would create a clean transportation fund.

"The ... policy is called a carbon pollution fee. It would limit the amount of carbon pollution released into the air, and require major polluters like oil, natural gas, and energy companies in New York State to pay a fee for each ton of carbon pollution they emit from their activities here. The revenue would fund: clean energy, like solar and wind; cleaner transportation options like public transit, and cleaner fuels; helping low-income communities and communities of color disproportionately impacted by pollution; ensuring our forests are healthy; preventing and cleaning up pollution from our rivers and lakes, and increasing sustainable supplies of drinking water."

Total support for the pollution fee reached 76 percent, while 21 percent said they opposed it. A majority of Republicans, Democrats and Independents each supported the fee, with Democrats showing 87 percent support. Independents had 74 percent support and Republicans had 56 percent support. All age groups and both men and women supported the proposed fee as well. It also had broad support regardless of whether the respondent lived in a city, suburb or rural area. Race, income and education also had little bearing on the overwhelming support for such a fee.

And while 51 percent of people said they would more likely support a politician who endorsed the proposal, 36 percent said it would make no difference in their vote. Thirteen percent of people said they were less likely to vote for a politician who supported the fee.

A clean transportation fund also enjoyed broad support across all demographics, in which "The state of New York would invest in transportation choices that reduce pollution, including expanding public transportation and creating infrastructure for electric vehicles and safe ways for people to walk and bike, all across New York."

The idea had total support of 83 percent of the respondents and 13 percent opposed. Again, Republicans (68 percent), Independents (86 percent) and Democrats (89 percent) all like the idea. Income, education, location and race each played no role, as the clean transportation fund had broad support across all groups.

"New York voters understand that climate change is occurring, and most feel they will be harmed by it personally. Climate change is among their top concerns, along with the cost of health care taxes, and deteriorating infrastructure," the survey concludes. "Majorities say they would be more likely to support a legislator who backed either proposal, with another one-third saying it makes no difference. Voters are willing to pay up to $10 additional per month to support either concept once they hear what it might fund. Their top-ranking projects include reducing air pollution, repairing infrastructure and conserving natural areas.

"A brief exchange of messaging leaves support for each proposal at or above seven in 10."



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