November 13, 2014

Obama vs. the Republicans on environmental issues: How the public views them

(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Newly empowered Republicans are promising to challenge President Obama’s agenda on the environment, particularly his administration’s proposed regulations to sharply cut emissions from coal-fired power plants and construction of the Keystone pipeline. Public opinion is on Obama’s side when it comes to limiting emissions, but the GOP is in sync with most Americans on Keystone.

Across nine issues tested, President Obama has a clear advantage over congressional Republicans on only one: 35% say he has the better approach on the environment, while just 20% prefer the Republican approach.Broadly speaking, Obama has an advantage over Republicans when it comes to environmental matters. The environment is the only one of nine issues tested in a post-election poll where Obama enjoys a clear edge, with Americans favoring his approach to the subject over that of the Republicans by a 35% to 20% margin. About four-in-ten (41%) see no difference between the two.

Majority of Americans favor construction of the Keystone pipeline.Republicans have talked of forcing a decision on the Keystone pipeline – a decision that Obama has delayed – by approving legislation requiring the president to approve it. About six-in-ten Americans (59%) favor building the pipeline to transport oil from Canada to Gulf Coast ports, while 31% oppose it. However, overall support for the pipeline has slipped seven points since last year, a trend driven largely by declines among Democrats and independents. Democrats are internally divided on the issue, with 45% opposing it and 43% favoring it.

Majority of Americans back stricter limits on coal plant emissions.Soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whose home state of Kentucky is one of the nation’s top coal producers, has made clear that the coal plant emissions limit will be a major target. However, the emission rules have substantial support among Americans with 64% favoring stricter limits in order to address climate change. Republicans are evenly divided on the issue, with 47% each favoring stricter limits and opposing them.


Topics: Barack Obama, Political Issue Priorities

  1. Photo of Bruce Drake

    is a senior editor at Pew Research Center.


  1. Diana Stahlnecker3 years ago

    I am a Nebraskan and would like to know when & where and to whom the poll concerning the Keystone XL Pipeline was given. I have yet to meet anyone who is in favor of it other than those who will benefit monetarily. I have friends, relatives, aquaintances nationwide and NOBODY is in favor of the pipeline. So, I would really like an answer to my question. How about giving a poll nationwide through facebook. I think your results will be very different.

  2. Janna3 years ago

    Surely most people would recognize there is a BIG difference between Republicans and Dems on taxation issues — both individual taxation and business or corporate taxation! People KNOW when the government is taking money out of THEIR own pockets! When 37% of the respondents say in your poll there is ‘no difference on taxation issues’ between the two parties — I question how accurate the REST of the information really is!

    1. Jannata Verysmartperson3 years ago

      The survey asks who will handle the situation better. Try reading next time.

  3. Charles3 years ago

    I remember the gas lines at the gas stations in the 70’s during the peanut farmers rule.
    We have short memories. Drill now and often.

    1. Jack T.3 years ago

      It was the oil embargo, not Carter.

  4. Marshall Shelor3 years ago

    I must really be out of touch. I think Obama has done a great job in the face of so much opposition in Congress. As I look at your chart giving Republicans the benefit of citizens concerns I must believe “what a good job Rupert Murdoch has done”. I guess I must put my blinders on and tape my mouth shut. Are you sure these people you surveyed were actually informed? For example: Except for a few temporary construction jobs, the keystone pipeline does nothing for the U.S. except expose Large water aquifers to ruination.

    1. Patrick3 years ago

      Since when is 40,000 construction jobs a few? And the pipeline consturction is planned to take at least 3 years. That’s a lot of income flowing into the households of 40,000 workers.
      The construction parameters will prevent any possible aquifer contamination.
      The revenue derived will be a plus for the US. And, the oil sands that would have been shipped to China for processing will stay right here and when sold, will be another boon for the US economy.
      So Shelor, you’d be better informed if you divorced yourself from MSNBC and watch a bit more unbiased Fox News

      1. Jake3 years ago

        There is no such thing as unbiased Patty, especially in the news. Fox News has even openly admitted to relaying the news with a certain conservative bias. In addition, that 40,000 job figure is inaccurate. Many of the so called tens of thousands of jobs are already filled and are simply current employees who will be working on the project. On top of that, the third party estimates on the amount of jobs that will be created are far lower.

      2. L3 years ago

        Patrick, you are hilariously wrong. Pew’s own research shows that Fox’s coverage is just as biased as MSNBC, and their viewers are far more uneducated on current events. Try again.…

  5. Elaine Coyle3 years ago

    I have seen in other polls where the environment is between 9th& 11th in interest to Americans.
    Most people are more concerned with jobs & the economy.