Post-Debate Poll Finds 57% of Registered Voters Support Phasing Out Fossil Fuels

Graphic: Morning Consult

By Amy Lupica, ODP Contributing Writer

During the final presidential debate, Joe Biden affirmed that he supports phasing out the fossil fuel industry over time to make way for sustainable energy. A new Morning Consult/Politico poll found that 3 out of 5 voters support the idea.  A majority of registered voters — 57% — said they supported a coordinated transition away from oil, while only 28% opposed it. An oil-to-renewable energy transition draws significant support from Democrats, 73% of whom support a transition, and urban voters, at 66%. Although the Biden Campaign later clarified that Biden supports phasing out federal subsidies for the fossil fuel industry, the poll found that a full phase-out was, in fact, popular with voters.

Why This Matters: As Election Day draws near, new polls by Pew Research found that 68% of registered voters consider climate change to be a “very important” or “somewhat” important issue. Many experts (and even some coal workers) agree that investing in renewable energy will help create jobs and boost the economy. Renewable energy is more economically viable than ever and voters support it.  Moderate Dems may have been nervous that Republicans will try to skewer Biden over this remark, but these polls suggest that might not work.  The question will be whether it flips any voters in a crucial swing state.  Only time will tell.  

Climate Deserves the Air Time

This was the first time in the 2020 presidential debates that the candidates were asked specifically about their plans to address climate change. Voters seemed to appreciate the airtime; fewer than 1 in 5 registered voters polled by Morning Consult felt that too much time was spent on climate in the final debate. 39% thought there was too little time dedicated to the climate, while 37% thought it was just the right amount.

A Fine Line

The poll found that registered voters trust Biden on climate change over Trump by a factor of 2 to 1. Trump has lost the trust of many energy workers, but experts are wary of the tightrope Biden must walk to maintain moderate and liberal voter trust. Voters on the left are concerned that Biden’s moderate stance will stymie the climate necessary to avoid catastrophe, but those in the middle don’t want to see layoffs and job cuts due to the loss of an industry that has dominated the American economy for a century.

Rep. Kendra Horn (D-Okla.), who flipped a Republican district in 2018, wants more compromise in a Biden presidency. “I think, far too often, it’s too easy for people to oversimplify things and put people into categories that say you’re either with me or you’re against me,” she said. But more liberal lawmakers like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), a chief co-sponsor of the ambitious Green New Deal, praised Biden’s climate goals. The Biden Campaign’s strategy has seeming had some success, with Biden managing to garner the trust of 18% of Republicans following his final debate performance.

The Trump administration has rolled back nearly 100 environmental regulations including the Clean Air and Water Acts. Recently, Trump has opened up some of the United States’ largest carbon sinks to commercial development and rolled back Obama-era emissions standards for vehicles, increasing the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere. Unless the United States makes a swift and concerted effort to restore and improve crucial climate policy, the country will see climate disasters become more frequent and much more destructive.

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