THE VINE SEPTEMBER 21, 2009
The conventional wisdom about the politics of climate-change legislation is that cap-and-trade is grossly, horribly unpopular and that Democrats in conservative districts ought to be blanching with terror over getting behind it. What's more (says the c.w.), those conservative Dems who did vote for the Waxman-Markey bill in the House probably signed their own political death warrants. But is this really true? Well, maybe not, according to a new poll from Garin Hart Yang, a Dem-leaning firm that conducted the survey on behalf of the Environmental Defense Fund.
The pollsters took the temperature of three very conservative districts held by Democrats who voted for Waxman-Markey, and the results were surprising: Voters in Heath Shuler's North Carolina district supported a cap on carbon 55 percent to 29 percent; in Barron Hill's Indiana district, support ran 45-30; in freshman Tom Perriello's conservative Virginia district, support ran 42-25. None of these districts feel particularly warm toward Obama—in Shuler's district, for instance, Obama's approvals are actually a net negative—but voters on the whole seem to trust environmental groups, and moderates in those areas upgraded their opinions of their reps after learning they voted for the climate bill.
Now, as noted, this is a Democratic pollster, and a different pollster framing the questions in slightly different ways might've gotten conflicting answers. (Indeed, if you look on the last page of this poll, note that, in these districts, the GOP's favored "cap-and-tax" message was only slightly less convincing to voters than the pro-reform "create jobs" message.) Still, it's some evidence that tackling climate change isn't political suicide, after all.