Californians divided along party lines on combating climate change

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 30, 2015 12:02 AM

By Sharon Bernstein

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Reuters) - Two-thirds of Californians link the state's ongoing catastrophic drought to climate change, and most support Governor Jerry Brown's efforts to combat it – but that's also because most Californians are Democrats, a new poll shows.

The survey released on Wednesday by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) shows that 64 percent of the state's residents believe that global warming has affected the state's drought, now in its fourth year.

But that masks deep divisions along party lines, with 78 percent of Democrats saying they believe global warming has contributed to the drought, compared to 62 percent of Republicans who said it has not contributed.

Similarly, a majority of Democrats and independents in the state say they are concerned about droughts becoming more severe, compared to just 33 percent of Republicans.

Democrats dominate politics in the most populous U.S. state, where they hold wide majorities in both houses of the legislature and all statewide elected offices. Among registered voters in California, just 29 percent are Republicans, according to the state.

It adds up to strong support for the recent push by Brown, a Democrat, to make climate change strategy a centerpiece of his second term, said PPIC President Mark Baldassare.

"Californians connecting climate change with the drought is creating a context in 2015 where there is very strong support for what the state is doing in form of climate change policy," Baldassare said.

Sixty-one percent of Californians said they thought it very important for the state to pass regulations and spend money now to combat global warming, compared to 53 percent two years ago, the survey showed.

Still more, 65 percent, said the state should make its own policies separately from those developed by the federal government.

Among policies aimed at combating climate change, California has enacted strict curbs on vehicle emissions and backed numerous efforts to develop sources of energy other than fossil fuel, such as solar and wind power.

A large majority - 69 percent - said they support following through with a state law requiring California to reduce total vehicle emissions to levels last seen in 1990 despite a huge increase in population and the number of cars on the road.

A proposal to reduce emissions even further by 2050 was also supported by 69 percent of those polled.

To conduct the poll, the PPIC interviewed 1702 adult California residents from July 12 to 21, 2015.

(Editing by Sandra Maler)