Is the Public Clamoring for More EPA Regulation?

by Marlo Lewis on March 31, 2011

in Features

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Is the public clamoring for more EPA regulation?

That’s what Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) claimed yesterday in a speech on the Senate floor (Congressional Record, pp. 1955-57) denouncing S. 493, the McConnell amendment/Inhofe-Upton Energy Tax Prevention Act, which would stop EPA from ‘legislating’ climate policy.

Boxer cited a poll finding that 69% of Americans believe “EPA should update Clean Air Act standards with stricter pollution limits.” Of course, most people want cleaner air in the abstract. That tells us nothing about how much those same people are willing to pay for cleaner air, or what other public priorities (e.g. affordable energy, job creation) they are willing to sacrifice or put at risk. In the abstract, most people also support a balanced budget.  But that does not necessarily mean they want Congress to cut their favorite programs or raise taxes. Without meaning to, people can easily “lie” to a pollster (see the accompanying cartoon).

In an earlier post today, I note that in the November 2010 elections, voters punished lawmakers pushing the EPA-Obama-Boxer stealth energy tax agenda formerly known as cap-and-trade. Elections are the most relevant “poll” for guiding legislative deliberations.

Maybe Boxer thinks she has more up-to-date information about public attitudes. But a very recent opinion survey conducted by the Tarrance Group directly contradicts the poll Boxer cites. Here are the results, as summarized in the Tarrance Group’s March 30, 2011 press release:

The Tarrance Group is pleased to present Public Notice with the key findings from a survey of N=800 registered “likely” voters across the country. Interviews were conducted March 27-29, 2011. In 95 out of 100 cases, the margin of error on a sample of this type is +/- 3.5%.
– Support is low for more environmental regulations on businesses. Only 40% says there should be more, while a majority (53%) says the level of regulations should remain where it is now (28%) or there should be less (25%).
– Americans believe small businesses will feel the impact of new regulations, with 73% agreeing that “government regulations hit small businesses much harder than big corporations.”
– The American worker is also seen as receiving a hit from more regulation, with 59% agreeing that “additional federal regulation on businesses put the average American worker at risk of job loss.” Also, a majority (56%) agree that “additional environmental regulation has a negative impact on local communities through tax increases and job loss.”
– There is a perceived impact on jobs from increased regulation, as three quarters (75%) agree that “if regulations make it too expensive to keep jobs in America, businesses will continue to move overseas where there are much lower labor and environmental standards.” Also, a majority (53%) agree that “additional environmental regulation makes American companies less competitive than foreign companies.”
– Americans also believe regulations have an impact on their pocketbook. Nearly three quarters (72%) agree that “additional environmental regulation increases the price of energy for things like gasoline and electricity.” Another 68% agree that “more environmental regulation increases the price of everyday items like food and clothing.”
– Voters prefer new regulation be enacted through Congress, as 64% agree that “no new expensive regulation of business should be allowed without first getting approval from Congress.”
– Voters throughout the country remain focused on jobs and the economy, with 34% saying this is the issue Congress should be focused on right now. Another 17% say government spending is the most important issue, while only 2% say “climate change and the environment” is the top issue.

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