Latest polls: Trump's environmental agenda on collision course with voters

Jeremy Symons

Most presidents enjoy honeymoon periods of favorable public opinion ratings well past their first 100 days in office, which makes the historically bad disapproval ratings for Trump’s handling of the environment all the more remarkable.

A Quinnipiac University poll conducted just 73 days into his presidency shows that 61 percent of voters nationwide disapprove of Trump’s handling of the environment – more than twice as many voters who approve.

Even more notable is the fact that this disapproval rate ranks higher than for all other issues, including health care and immigration. 

Trump’s high disapproval numbers on the environment are far higher than Presidents Bush’s 38 percent, and Obama’s 14 percent, on the same topic during their first months in office, according to a separate poll by Gallup

79% of young Americans disapprove

The Quinnipiac poll, conducted between March 31 and April 3, shows there’s broad public concern with Trump’s attacks against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and his rollback of clean water, clean air and climate regulations.

Majorities of all age groups disapprove, but the divide among younger voters is seismic. Seventy-nine percent of Americans under the age of 35 disapprove of Trump’s environmental stance. 

The Quinnipiac poll is just the latest indication of growing public backlash against Trump’s environmental agenda. Indeed, the early March poll from Gallup found little resonance with Trump’s message that the EPA has gone too far in regulating businesses.

Only 11 percent of the public believe the United States government is doing “too much” to protect the environment, while 59 percent believe they are doing “too little.”

These polls are the first environmental surveys to come out following a steady stream of alarming news from the Trump administration for anyone concerned about clean air, clean water and climate change. Trump proposed a crippling budget cut to the EPA that would:

  • slash EPA’s ability to enforce clean air and clean water standards against offenders by 60 percent
  • eliminate programs that protect kids from lead paint
  • cut funding by more than 90 percent for programs to clean up toxic pollution and revive wetland habitats in the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay 
  • eliminate EPA’s climate change science reports and research in a government-wide effort to staunch the flow of information on climate science and impacts, including deep funding cuts at NOAA and NASA
  • shut down the Energy Star program that have saved consumers $430 billion dollars on energy bills while reducing carbon pollution by two billion tons

The Quinnipiac poll was conducted just days after Trump’s high-profile visit to EPA headquarters to sign an executive order aimed at rolling back the agency’s Clean Power Plan.

And it follows reports that the EPA will reverse a scientifically driven ban on Chlorpyrifos, a pesticide sold under the name of Dursban that can lead to brain damage in children and is found on fruits and vegetables.

Climate change “personal” issue for voters

Gallup Analyst Andrew Dugan called Trump’s staged roll-back of the Clean Power Plan “an instance of Trump implementing or pursuing a policy that is out of sync with broad trends in American public opinion.” 

Gallup’s polling shows that 69 percent of Americans favor stronger enforcement of environmental regulations – an uptick of 5 percent from when they last asked the question in 2014.  And more people, 62 percent, now believe that global warming has “already begun,” a higher number than at any time in the 20 years that Gallup has asked the question.

Indeed, two-thirds of voters are concerned that climate change will affect them or a family member personally, the Quinnipiac poll similarly found. 

“It’s personal. Climate change is an existential threat, many voters feel”, concluded Tim Malloy, the poll’s assistant director. ”They are concerned, and some are very concerned, about the looming menace of climate change.” 

The gap between voters’ environmental values and Trump’s extreme agenda appears to be too big to overcome with soundbites and tweets. The big question now is whether Congress will go along with Trump’s dangerous cuts to the EPA and other agencies – or whether lawmakers will stand up for their constituents and keep America’s bipartisan environmental legacy intact.

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