Republican primary voters put environment ahead of tax cuts

Zogby poll reveals support for environmental protection; top concerns of GOP primary voters include water, air, toxics.

provided by The National Environmental Trust


epublican primary voters are more concerned about environmental protection than either cutting taxes or restricting abortion, according to new poll by independent pollster John Zogby. The survey, conducted in mid-August and released in early September, polled likely Republican voters in five early primary or caucus states: California, Iowa, New Hampshire, New York, and South Carolina. Of those surveyed, 93 percent said protecting the environment was important in deciding their vote for a candidate. That is the same percentage of Republican primary voters who called "encouraging family values" important in deciding their vote, more than cutting taxes (91 percent), and substantially more than restricting abortion (61 percent).  The poll's margin of error is ±2.4 percent.

Despite the negative connotation of the word "environmentalist" among some Republicans, Zogby found that, overall, likely GOP voters in these key states are evenly divided between those who call themselves environmentalists (47 percent) and those who say they are not (50 percent). More than four in five respondents (85 percent), however, say it is important to them that a candidate be a strong supporter of the environment.

Zogby conducts polls for Reuters, Fox News, Gannett and many newspapers and television stations.  The National Environmental Trust (NET), which commissioned the poll, is making the results of the poll available to all the presidential campaigns.  NET does not take any position on elections, candidates, or political campaigns.

"This poll blows up the conventional wisdom among many leaders of the Republican Party that their grass roots don't support strong environmental action by the federal government," said NET president Philip E. Clapp.

"Republican candidates would be wise to note that there has been a significant shift of the party's likely primary voters away from the far right and more toward the center," said Zogby. "This can be seen on several issues but notably here, in regard to favoring solid federal presence on behalf of the environment."

According to political consultant Dick Morris, voters under age 35 are giving Bush his big lead over Gore, making Generation X voters "the jump ball of our politics." The key to reaching them, Morris wrote recently, is the environment, an issue of importance to this age group.

The most important environmental issues to likely Republican primary and caucus voters, who were asked to choose from a list of eight issues, were improving drinking water (97 percent), cleaning up toxic waste (96 percent), improving air quality (93 percent), and requiring auto companies to meet fuel efficiency standards (88 percent). Even on global warming, an issue that some Republicans have viewed as a vulnerability to possible Democratic nominee Al Gore, 79.5 percent called the issue important.

The most popular pro-environment positions, which will help GOP candidates win the most support from likely primary voters, include requiring manufacturers to include information about cancer-causing ingredients on their product labels (67 percent would be more likely to support such a candidate), support for modernizing power plants and automobiles to reduce emissions (59 percent), and favoring a stronger federal role in regulating pesticides currently in use (56 percent).

The least popular anti-environmental positions, which would cost Republican primary candidates the most support, include accepting political contributions from companies that pollute and then want to weaken clean air and water laws (79 percent would be less likely to support such a candidate), saying global warming has not been proven and is nothing to worry about (65 percent), and relaxing the Clean Water Act (61 percent).

Issues that the federal government should do more to address, according to a plurality of those surveyed, are cleaning up toxic wastes (46 percent), improving drinking water (44 percent), and protecting against sprawl (44 percent). Nearly half those surveyed (48 percent) would favor a candidate who takes global warming seriously and believes it will lead to disrupted weather patterns, against a fifth (21 percent) who would be less likely to support such a candidate, with the rest saying it would make no difference.

  Contact: Charles Miller or Molly Lovett, Fenton Communications, (202) 822-5200