Californians Favor Stronger Efforts to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Rachel Ward
Research Associate at the Public Policy Institute of California

Last month, California officials reached a groundbreaking deal with four major auto manufacturers to toughen greenhouse gas emissions. According to PPIC’s latest survey, an overwhelming majority of Californians (75% adults, 76% likely voters) favor requiring all automakers to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases from new cars. Californians express strong support for other efforts to reduce emissions as well.

The new emissions standards are more stringent than those proposed by the Trump administration and counter the administration’s efforts to restrict states’ ability to set emissions guidelines. Under the agreement, automakers will increase the fuel economy of their new vehicles by improving fuel efficiency and selling more electric vehicles and hybrids. While the stricter standards only apply to California, the automakers said the agreement is meant to show general support for a national emissions standard.

While most Californians favor requiring automakers to reduce emissions from new cars, support is slightly lower than it was when we first asked this question in 2002 (81% adults, 79% likely voters). Today, Democrats (90%) are much more likely than independents (73%) and Republicans (49%) to favor this policy. Strong majorities (at least seven in ten) across regions and demographic groups are in favor.

A strong majority of Californians (74%, 68% likely voters) also express support for encouraging local governments to change land use and transportation planning so that people can drive less. 

Support has declined somewhat since this question was first asked in July 2008 (81% adults, 79% likely voters). Today, Democrats (87%) are nearly twice as likely as Republicans (45%) to favor the proposal, and three in four (75%) independents express support. Majorities across racial/ethnic groups are in favor, but Asian Americans, Latinos, and African Americans express the highest levels of support. Strong majorities across regions favor the proposal.

While three in four Californians favor these specific policy approaches, slightly fewer adults (67%) and likely voters (63%) support Senate Bill 32, the state law requiring California to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. Although partisans are deeply divided, majorities across regions and demographic groups are in favor, with Asian Americans (77%), San Francisco Bay Area residents (76%), and college graduates (76%) expressing the strongest support.

Earlier this year, Senator Scott Wiener introduced legislation (Senate Bill 50) that would require local governments to change zoning for new developments from single-family to multi-family housing near transit and jobs centers—one goal of the bill is to encourage less driving. In our May survey, 62% of Californians (57% likely voters) favored this proposal. Although the bill failed to advance out of a key committee, it is likely to be reconsidered in the 2020 legislative session.

As California’s leaders continue to pursue a variety of climate change and energy policies, PPIC will monitor emerging legislation on greenhouse gas emissions as well as the views of Californians on these proposals.

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