* Survey on climate, energy at odds with Washington debate
* Obama suggests climate change could be a campaign issue
* Republicans and Democrats support environmental actions
By Deborah Zabarenko
WASHINGTON, April 26 Three out of four U.S.
voters favor regulating carbon dioxide as a greenhouse-gas
pollutant, and a majority think global warming should be a
priority for the president and Congress, a survey of American
attitudes on climate and energy reported on Thursday.
The survey was released one day after Rolling Stone magazine
published an interview with President Barack Obama in which he
suggested that climate change would become a campaign issue this
In results often at odds with the political debate in
Washington, the survey conducted for Yale and George Mason
University also found most Americans would vote for a candidate
who raised taxes on coal, oil and natural gas - fossil fuels
that emit climate-warming carbon dioxide when burned - while
cutting income tax, in a revenue-neutral "tax swap."
This maneuver, which would not add to federal revenues but
would change where they came from, has long been discussed by
such disparate political actors as former Vice President Al
Gore, a Democrat, and Bob Inglis, a Republican former
Sixty-one percent of Americans surveyed said they would be
more likely to vote for a candidate who supported the tax swap,
while 20 percent said they would be less likely.
In 2010, Democrats took a different approach, pushing
legislation through the House of Representatives that aimed to
lower carbon emissions by raising the price of fossil fuels. But
the effort died in the Senate amid strong Republican opposition.
While Democrats are frequently perceived as being "greener"
than Republicans and independents, the survey found sizable
majorities of all three groups favored the tax swap and other
environmentally friendly policies, said Anthony Leiserowitz of
the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication.
For example, the survey found 75 percent of respondents
support regulating carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas pollutant,
which the Supreme Court ruled legal in 2007 and the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency has advocated.
But looking at the political breakdown on this question, 84
percent of Democrats, 67 percent of Republicans and 77 percent
of independents favor this regulation.
A GAP BETWEEN VOTERS AND CONGRESS
While there is a wide gap between Republicans and Democrats,
Republican voters still favored this move by a solid two-thirds
majority, while most congressional Republicans have opposed it,
"You do have to draw a distinction between the members of
Congress and the broad public ... The two parties have now
become more and more ideologically pure ... and that is not true
among the public at large," he said in a telephone interview.
The nationally representative survey of 1,008 U.S. adults,
with a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent, found 72
percent of Americans think global warming should be a very high,
high or medium priority for the president and Congress. Among
registered voters, 84 percent of Democrats, 68 percent of
independents and 52 percent of Republicans agreed.
A related survey released on Wednesday by the non-profit
Civil Society Institute found 76 percent of Americans think the
United States should move to a sustainable energy future by
reducing reliance on nuclear power, natural gas and coal and
boosting renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Obama, who campaigned for the White House in 2008 as an
environmental candidate committed to stemming climate change,
sounded in sync with the results of these surveys in his
comments to Rolling Stone.
"I suspect that over the next six months, this (climate
change) is going to be a debate that will become part of the
campaign, and I will be very clear in voicing my belief that
we're going to have to take further steps to deal with climate
change in a serious way," Obama said.
Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential
nominee, has changed his views during his campaign on whether
human activities cause climate change. His website does not list
environment or climate change as one of his issues, but the site
critiques Obama's energy policy as "incoherent."
"Mitt's Plan," it says, "would make every effort to
safeguard the environment" while protecting U.S. jobs. Romney
also plans to amend the Clean Air Act to exclude carbon dioxide
as a pollutant that could be regulated.
Obama acknowledged that it was challenging to get Americans
to focus on climate change when their top priorities in the last
three years were jobs, housing and gasoline prices.
Karlyn Bowman, who tracks public opinion at the pro-business
American Enterprise Institute, confirmed that impression. Bowman
noted that polls of U.S. priorities rank the economy far above
either energy or climate change.