More than 80% of Americans support almost all of the key ideas in Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Green New Deal

Agence France-Presse/Saul Loeb via Getty ImagesRep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts at a press conference outside the US Capitol on February 7 to announce the Green New Deal legislation to promote clean-energy programs.
  • Since Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey introduced their road map for a Green New Deal last week, critics on the left and the right have characterised the ambitious proposal as politically infeasible.
  • But a recent INSIDER poll found that a plurality of respondents were receptive to the Green New Deal and large majorities supported the bulk of the resolution’s broad policy goals.
  • The proposal bundles aggressive environmental priorities with investments in infrastructure, jobs, and transportation – issues that Americans across the political spectrum are worried about.
  • But a plurality of respondents were opposed to the federal government investing and maintaining ownership stake in private businesses – one of the seven pillars of the proposal that INSIDER polled.

Since Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey introduced their road map for a Green New Deal last week, critics on the left and the right have called the ambitious proposal politically infeasible.

President Donald Trump characterised the plan as socialist, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called it a “green dream.”

Nevertheless, the nonbinding resolution has quickly picked up steam among progressives. The Green New Deal has received nine Senate sponsors and more than 60 House sponsors, and every Senate Democrat who has declared a run for president in 2020 has endorsed it.

The deal’s staunchest advocates insist there is broad support among American voters for their calls to decarbonize and turbo-charge the economy.

According to a new INSIDER poll, they may have a strong case.

Here’s what Americans support in the Green New Deal

To start with, INSIDER’s poll found that a solid majority of Americans agreed with scientific consensus around climate change.

Nearly 62% of those polled said the Earth was warming as a result of human activities, including burning fossil fuels, which is the scientific consensus. Twenty-six per cent said global warming was a result of natural patterns in the Earth’s environment, and just 11.7% said there’s no solid evidence the Earth was getting warmer.

Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal House resolution broadly calls for the US to address climate change through a 10-year mobilization to make the US economy carbon-neutral by moving to 100% renewable energy while simultaneously guaranteeing a job to every American who wants one.

A plurality of respondents – 43.7% – agreed with the Green New Deal proposal as a whole, with 16.3% strongly agreeing, 13.9% agreeing, and 13.5% somewhat agreeing. Just 14.7% disagreed with it, and about 24.3% said they didn’t know enough to say.


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Next, we polled seven ideas or components of the deal that would be linked to policy priorities, all of which are quite vague. Given the loose nature of the proposals, we asked respondents how important it was to implement these policy proposals, on a scale with five options running from “not at all important” to “extremely important.”

  • 87.6% of respondents said it was somewhat, very, or extremely important that the federal government invest in infrastructure designed to build resilience against climate-change-related disasters.
  • 87.2% of poll respondents said it was somewhat, very, or extremely important that the US meet 100% of its power demands through renewable or zero-emission energy sources; 12.7% said this goal was either not so important or not at all important.
  • 86% of those polled said it was important that the federal government enact policies aimed at achieving net-zero greenhouse-gas emissions (which would mean no added carbon dioxide in the atmosphere).
  • Support for improving the energy efficiency of new and existing buildings was particularly high at 89%.
  • And 87.5% of respondents said it’s important that both manufacturing and agricultural businesses and industries be required to be as emission-free as technologically feasible.
  • The resolution’s call for major investment in energy-efficient transportation was also popular, with 87.6% of those polled saying it’s important that the government invest directly in a high-speed rail system, zero-emission vehicle infrastructure, and clean public transit.

And big majorities of respondents supported a broad call for a much stronger social safety net. Seventy-eight per cent said a federal jobs guarantee was important. And 69.8% somewhat approved, approved, or strongly approved of the government providing all Americans with high-quality healthcare, affordable housing, economic security, healthy and affordable food, and a clean environment.

While our polling found significant public support for the general concept of a Green New Deal and most of the plan’s key proposals, it’s not clear to what extent voters will prioritise the issue when compared with other policy priorities.

The survey’s findings also mirror a general shift in US public opinion on climate change in recent years.

A recent survey from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and George Mason University found that 73% of Americans said they understood that global warming was occurring – an increase of 10 percentage points from three years ago. Seventy-two per cent of those polled said climate change was important to them.

But do they support the whole bundle?

While individually these policies might be broadly popular – sure, high-speed rail may sound like a good idea, even to people who don’t think the government should guarantee jobs – the proposals are bundled for a reason.

While responding to climate change is important to many, it’s not typically a top policy issue for large groups of Americans. In many ways, that’s the key innovation of the Green New Deal.

According to the Pew Research Center, Americans from across the political spectrum prioritise policies that address the economy, transportation, and jobs. Further, “the economy” and “jobs” regularly appear at or near the top of the list for Americans’ policy goals for the federal government.

So it should come as no surprise that the plan links a jobs and economic-stimulus package with environmental priorities. Proponents of the Green New Deal hope the popularity of the economic goals will rub off on that of the climate-related priorities.

A reasonable concern would be that one or more of those priorities could be a poison pill for the package. But INSIDER’s survey casts doubt on that, and there is not a ton of evidence to support those concerns.

Of the seven separate planks INSIDER surveyed, 30% said all seven were extremely or very important, 17% said six of the seven were important, and 12% said five of the seven were important. For comparison, 15% said none of the seven polled policies were very or extremely important.

And adding in those who said the priorities were at least somewhat important, 66% of respondents went seven-for-seven, saying that each and every component of the plan was somewhat, very, or extremely important. That seems to back the notion of bundling these policy proposals.

Twenty-one per cent of respondents identified as very or somewhat conservative, 31% identified as very or somewhat liberal, and 48% identified as slightly liberal or slightly conservative or neither or declined to say. Support for a Green New Deal and its proposals was strongly linked to whether respondents said they believed the Earth was getting warmer because of human activity, with the exception of one policy.

The weakest part of the Deal

Just 13% of respondents said they approved of the federal government directly investing and maintaining ownership stakes in businesses working to meet the policy goals of the Green New Deal. About 42% of respondents said they either disapproved or strongly disapproved of such action.

The public’s opinion on this issue could be informed by President Barack Obama’s largely unsuccessful efforts to create hundreds of thousands of green jobs with the $US90 billion set aside in the 2009 stimulus package for clean-energy development.

The program’s shortcomings were highlighted in the government’s relationship with Solyndra, a manufacturer of solar panels, which went under after the administration gave the company a $US535 million government-guaranteed loan.

The company ultimately filed for bankruptcy after market conditions and unwise managerial decisions caused its revenue to plummet.

Obama’s auto bailouts in the midst of Great Recession are another recent example of government getting involved with private companies. Faced with estimates that more than 1 million jobs would be lost if GM and Chrysler folded in 2009, Obama gave billions in loan guarantees to both car manufacturers. At the time, the move was deeply unpopular.

Both companies were saved by their “controlled bankruptcies” and rebounded during Obama’s presidency, repaying the bulk of their loans. By 2012, public support for the bailout rose to 56%, according to a Pew Research Center poll.

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