Virginia Environmental Attitudes Survey Released

Thursday, April 23, 2009

There's a new poll out, by the Center for Public Policy of Christopher Newport University, on "the public’s perception of the natural environment in Virginia." This is actually the first of three surveys to be conducted on the subject by the Center for Public Policy. Here are a few highlights (with my comments in parentheses):

*"Virginians give the state’s natural environment a grade of C which is equivalent to an average grade of 2.6 on the typical 4-point scale." (My personal grade would be a D, with the Chesapeake Bay in abysmal shape, with Dominion Power continuing to win battles on building new coal-fired power plants, etc.).

*"When asked how they think the Commonwealth’s natural environment will look ten years into the future, Virginians continue to be overwhelmingly pessimistic." (I agree, unless we get much different leadership in Richmond than we've been getting...)

*"Nearly nine in ten respondents feel that they understand the issue of global warming very well or fairly well, and nearly eight in ten of them think that global warming is probably happening. In contrast, about 19% say that global warming is probably not happening." (It's encouraging that 76.1% of Virginians believe global warming is happening, and that Bob McDonnell is one of only 18.7% who apparently - based on studies he cites by climate change "skeptics" - believes it's "probably not happening").

*"The vast majority of Virginians have changed their personal behavior to help protect." (This seems good, but the problem is that in the absence of economic recession, the trend for the Commonwealth as a whole is towards increased energy consumption and carbon emissions. Obviously, we need to do a lot more than act as individuals, we need aggressive government action if we're going to tackle this problem).

*"Virginians are generally and widely worried about environmental issues across the board, with no single issue receiving a severity rating below 3.09 the state’s natural environment." (Good, now let's translate that into electing politicians who agree with us, and UNelecting politicians who disagree with us on this issue.)

*"Virginians are generally willing to pay more to protect the state’s environment and natural resources. However, this support is variable..." (The problem with this is how the entire issue is framed and how the question is asked. Instead of posing it as "how much MORE would you pay" for environmental protection, this whole issue needs to be explained as a huge economic growth opportunity as well as a chance for homeowners and businesses to save enormous amounts of money from energy cost savings. Plus, as huge added bonuses, saving energy helps keep our planet's ecosystem from overheating and reduces the amount of money we're sending to Saudi Arabia and other countries that are not our friends. NOW is it worth investing some money up front in energy efficiency? Yeah, I thought so.)

*"Virginians are split on the issue of ‘cap and trade’ as a general rule, with just under half of respondents supporting the proposal in principle and just over half either opposing it or uncertain about it. However, 6 in 10 Virginians say they would be more likely to support the proposal if the revenue that would be generated from a ‘cap and trade’ system was given back to people to invest in environmentally friendly products and services." (This ties in to what I've been arguing for a long time, that the goal here is not to raise revenues, it's to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. That's why I favor returning money to people in the form of reductions in regressive taxes like the payroll tax, and/or credits towards purchase of energy efficient homes, cars, appliances, etc.)

Obviously, we have a long way to go, but this poll indicates that the public overall "gets it" and is well ahead of politicians like Bob McDonnell, Bill Bolling, and Ken Cuccinelli on this issue.