Washington’s policy agenda has been dominated by the economy and financial crisis during President Obama’s first two months in office. Yet a number of other policy proposals are currently being considered or may emerge in the future. The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted March 9-12 among 1,308 adults, included public attitudes toward setting limits on carbon emissions, allowing gays to serve openly in the military, and re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba.
Support for Carbon Cap
A majority of the public (59%) favors setting limits on carbon dioxide emissions and making companies pay for their emissions, even if that may mean higher energy prices. A third (33%) opposes capping carbon emissions under these conditions.
Seven-in-ten Democrats (70%) favor limiting carbon emissions even if it may ultimately result in higher energy prices, compared with 60% of independents and 42% of Republicans.
While Republicans and Democrats differ widely in opinions about setting limits on emissions of carbon dioxide, there also are substantial ideological and class divisions within both parties.
By about seven-to-one (83% to 12%), liberal Democrats favor setting limits on carbon dioxide emissions and making companies pay for their emissions, even if it means higher energy prices. Nearly half of liberal Democrats (46%) strongly favor this idea. A smaller majority of conservative and moderate Democrats (64%) favor imposing limits on carbon dioxide emissions, and just 19% strongly favor the proposal.
Republicans also are split: by 56% to 37%, conservative Republicans oppose setting limits on carbon emissions. By roughly the same margin (54% to 38%), moderate and liberal Republicans favor this approach.
Overall, 72% of college graduates support this proposal, compared with 60% of those with some college and 50% of those with no more than a high school education. Within both parties, well-educated people are more likely to support setting limits on carbon dioxide emissions than are those with less education. Among Republicans, 50% of college graduates favor setting emissions limits for carbon dioxide compared with 37% of those who have not completed college. The educational differences are even larger among Democrats (91% of college graduates vs. 62% of non-college graduates).
More women (63%) than men (55%) support placing a limit on carbon dioxide emissions. There are regional differences in opinions on this issue: Two-thirds (66%) of those living in the West support capping carbon emissions compared with 58% in the Midwest and 53% in the South. The difference is larger when regions are combined; 64% of those living in the Northeast or the West support limiting carbon emissions, compared with 56% of people living in the Midwest or the South.
Most Favor Gays Serving Openly
Most Americans continue to favor allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the U.S. military. Currently, 59% favor allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the armed forces, while 32% are opposed. Public attitudes on this issue have been stable since 2005.
In 1994, after the Clinton administration approved the current “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy – which mandated the discharge of service members who engage in homosexual conduct – there was less support for lifting the ban on openly gay service members. At that time, 52% favored and 45% opposed permitting gays and lesbians to serve openly in the armed forces.
Republicans are divided over this proposal: a majority of conservative Republicans (57%) oppose allowing gays and lesbians to openly serve in the military compared with 37% who favor letting them serve. By about two-to-one (62% to 30%), moderate and liberal Republicans favor permitting gays and lesbians to serve in the armed forces.
Eight-in-ten liberal Democrats (79%) support allowing gays to serve in the military while just 18% oppose the proposal. A smaller majority of conservative and moderate Democrats (60%) favors permitting gays to serve openly while 29% are opposed.
More women than men favor letting gays and lesbians serve in the military (66% vs. 52%). There also are large differences among religious groups in views on this issue. By about five-to-one (77% to 15%), the religiously unaffiliated favor allowing gays to serve; smaller majorities of white Catholics (65%) and white mainline Protestants (62%) express this view. By comparison, 38% of white evangelical Protestants support allowing gays to serve openly in the armed forces while 55% are opposed.
Renew U.S.-Cuba Ties
A narrow majority of Americans (52%) believe that the United States should re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba, which were cut off nearly half a century ago following the revolution that propelled Fidel Castro’s regime into power. A third (33%) oppose re-establishing ties with Cuba. Gallup surveys in recent years showed somewhat more support for renewing diplomatic relations with Cuba (61% in 2008, 67% in 2006).
College graduates favor re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba by a wide margin (63% to 24%); those with some college education have similar views about this proposal (61% favor, 25% oppose). By contrast, those with no more than a high school education are evenly divided – 41% say the United States should renew ties with Cuba while 42% oppose this step.
About twice many liberal Democrats as conservative Republicans favor re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba (73% vs. 36%). About half of conservative and moderate Democrats (54%), independents (53%) and moderate and liberal Republicans (50%) say the United States should restore ties with Cuba.