A firefighting helicopter is dwarfed by smoke and flames during Thomas Fire on December 7, 2017. A new PPIC poll found 85 percent of the state's voters are concerned that the effects of global warming could spark more dangerous wildfires. David McNew/Getty Images
A firefighting helicopter is dwarfed by smoke and flames during Thomas Fire on December 7, 2017. A new PPIC poll found 85 percent of the state's voters are concerned that the effects of global warming could spark more dangerous wildfires. (David McNew/Getty Images)

Environmental Issues Weigh Heavily for California Voters

Environmental Issues Weigh Heavily for California Voters

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Environmental policy appears to be especially important to California voters this year, particularly in the gubernatorial race between Democratic Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom and Republican businessman John Cox.

A survey of likely voters by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) found 87 percent rated the candidates’ environmental positions as either "very" or "somewhat" important to them.

It found 57 percent of likely voters believe global warming poses a very serious threat to California's economy and quality of life.

"Many Californians are concerned about the personal impact of global warming in the wake of a prolonged drought and in the face of fears that extreme weather may result in more severe wildfires," said Mark Baldassare, PPIC president and CEO.

Water, Fire and Air

In fact, the poll found 85 percent are concerned that the effects of global warming could spark more dangerous wildfires.

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Voters listed water supply as the most pressing environmental concern in the state, and they say they're willing to support a policy that addresses the issue.

A majority (58 percent) say they’ll vote in favor of an $8.9 billion water bond (Proposition 3) that will come before voters in November. One-quarter plan to vote against the measure, and the rest are undecided. Voters say air pollution and greenhouse gases are the next most pressing issues facing California.

Most Californians support policies that address climate change, such as cutting carbon emissions. For example, a strong majority (66 percent) support raising fuel emissions standards for cars, even though 58 percent of voters believe this will likely increase gas prices.

However, cost was more of a factor when voters were asked about renewables. Even though a solid majority (67 percent) favor a proposed law that would require all of the state’s electricity to come from sources like wind and solar by 2045, only half of respondents say they would be willing to shell out more money for energy sourced from renewables.

Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom and Republican businessman John Cox.
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and Republican businessman John Cox. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images, John Cox)

Most Popular Candidates

So who do most voters want to handle those potential problems? The poll gives Newsom a 55 to 31 percent advantage over Cox. Just 9 percent are undecided, while 5 percent don't plan to vote for either candidate.

Newsom leads among Democrats, Latinos and white voters. He also leads among independent voters, 41 to 33 percent. Cox gets the vast majority of Republicans' support. Seventy percent of Newsom's supporters say the candidates’ positions on the environment are very important. Just 25 percent of Cox supporters feel the same way.

In the race for U.S. Senate, Sen. Dianne Feisnstein leads State Sen. Kevin de León 46 to 24 percent. The race between the two Democrats doesn't appear to be generating a lot of enthusiasm with voters. Twenty percent said they don't plan to vote for either candidate.