September 9, 2006

Both Reds and Blues Go Green on Energy

Good news - a recent Pew Report shows that there is growing bipartisan consensus on energy and environmental issues. However, this same report shows that internal disagreement within the Republican and Democratic parties is likely to frustrate initiatives to support these issues.

In an article written for the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, Michael Dimock provides research data and a brief analysis showing examples where the intraparty dissension shows up between typologies.

By the way, invest a few minutes to answer the Pew Research typology questionnaire online, Where Do You Fit?, and find out which political typology group you fit into. I discovered I'm an Upbeat.


But Parties Split Internally on Environmental

by Michael Dimock
Pew Research Center for the People & the Press
February 28, 2006

With high fuel prices and instability in the Middle East, Americans are increasingly concerned about the nation's energy situation. In January, 58% rated "dealing with the nation's energy problem" a top priority, up from just 47% a year ago and 40% in January of 2003.

And while finding new energy and protecting the environment are often seen as conflicting goals, the public makes no such distinction. In concert with rising energy worries, Americans are becoming increasingly anxious about the environment. In January, 57% rated "protecting the environment" a top priority, up from 49% a year ago and just 39% in 2003.

The outgrowth of this concern about both energy and the environment is that the public expresses almost universal support for solutions that address both problems at the same time. Fully 86% favor the government requiring better fuel efficiency standards for cars, trucks and SUVs, and 82% favor increased federal funding for research on wind, solar and hydrogen energy.

Even more striking in today's politicized environment, is the level of bipartisan consensus behind these proposals. Republicans back higher fuel efficiency standards as uniformly as Democrats, and, if anything, are even stronger backers of federal research programs on alternative energy sources. Even expanding government spending on mass transportation, supported by two-in-three Americans overall, is backed equally by both Democrats and Republicans.

The extent to which constituencies within each party differ starkly over environmental priorities was highlighted by the Pew Research Center's 2005 Political Typology*. That survey, which classified segments of the U.S. electorate in terms of their underlying values, found that Americans take an overwhelmingly pro-environmental position on one of the survey's core questions. More than three-quarters of the public (77%) say that the country should do whatever it takes to protect the environment. Just 18% take the opposing position, that the country has gone too far in its efforts to protect the environment.

But a critical subgroup within the Republican coalition disagrees with this overall assessment. Enterprisers - Republicans who take a strong pro-business and small government position on most issues - are of the view that the country has already gone too far on the environment. Social Conservatives and Pro-Government Conservatives, on the other hand, are as firmly behind environmental protection as most Democratic and centrist groups.

And when the potential impact of environmental regulations on jobs and the economy are raised, significant divisions within the Democratic base also emerge. Many of those who are financially struggling and skeptical of both government and business - a group we refer to as Disadvantaged Democrats - say that environmental regulations cost too many jobs and hurt the economy. Other Democrats are far more likely to believe that environmental regulations are worth these costs. On the right, Enterprisers continue to diverge from the views of other GOP groups in their criticism of environmental efforts.

Concrete actions that both protect the environment and address the nation's energy needs are unlikely as long as these issues divide the parties internally at least as much as they divide Republicans from Democrats. While there is broad public backing for such government actions, advancing these policies may require an unusual coalition that energizes segments of both parties' bases.

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1 comment:

corndog said...

Very informative post. It seems to me that the bulk of the population WANTS the right things, but the policies it favors for me just don't deliver.

Example: the public WANTS higher mileage vehicles AND the subsidy of mass transit. The former results in reducing the cost of every mile driven, thus personal transportation becomes a much cheaper competitor to mass transit. The latter policy, subsidizing mass transit, is necessitated by the former. The conservation of a commodity simply cannot be increased by making it cheaper to use. Over time, consumers and commerce will figure out ways to use more of this cheaper-to-use commodity. This is not a prediction, this is precisely what has happened with 35 years of these failed policies.

Any policy that doesn't result in LESS miles driven, and doesn't make the use of mass transit an economic imperative is destined to INCREASE our use of liquid fuels. If I owned a mass-transit company, I would be against the government mandating the increased competition from my competitor, the motor vehicle. Cheap gas further exacerbates my problem.

If the public wants more of the same, that's what it will get, and neither the environment nor our dependency problem will improve.

TRUE CONSERVATION will require that every mile driven be MORE EXPENSIVE, not less, and everything we would like to see happen, will begin to happen.