Most Americans haven’t heard about the Green New Deal despite all the talk in Washington

Source: By Dino Grandoni, Washington Post • Posted: Sunday, December 1, 2019

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) hold a news conference to introduce legislation to transform public housing as part of their Green New Deal proposal in Washington. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The Green New Deal, an ambitious if at times vague call to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions while tackling economic inequality, seemed to be on the lips of everyone in Washington this year, drawing endorsements from many Democratic presidential candidates and outsized condemnation from President Trump and GOP lawmakers.

And outside of D.C.? Well, few actually know much about it.

That’s according to a nationwide public opinion poll by The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) this past summer, which Scott Clement and I reported on Wednesday morning.

What the survey does show is that while Americans like many of the plan’s goals, they are less keen on increasing federal spending by trillions of dollars to achieve its vision of tackling climate change and economic inequality through government programs. Here are the key findings:

The Green New What?

According to the survey, more than 3 in 4 Americans had heard little or nothing about the Green New Deal. While overall opinion was split, opposition rose among those most familiar with the plan.

Of those who said they had heard at least “a good amount” about the Green New Deal, nearly 6 in 10 opposed it. One explanation for that overall opposition: Republicans were about twice as likely as Democrats to have heard a good amount about the plan, which has drawn lots of rhetorical attention from President Trump and GOP lawmakers.

Overall, among all adults, 20 percent supported the plan, while 20 percent were opposed and the rest said they did not know enough about it to have an opinion.

But a plurality of the American people support “drastic” action

A more encouraging result for Green New Deal proponents is that just under half of American adults — 46 percent — said the United States needs to “drastically reduce” fossil fuel use in the next few years to avoid the worst effects of climate change, while 41 percent said a gradual reduction is needed. Another 12 percent said nothing needs to be done to avoid the most severe impacts of climate change.

By more than 2 to 1, Democrats believe a drastic, rather than gradual, reduction in emissions is necessary (66 percent vs. 31 percent), while Republicans are more likely to call for either a gradual reduction (51 percent) or no reduction at all (29 percent).

Among adults who have heard at least a little about the Green New Deal, 53 percent said it is not realistic while 40 percent said it is achievable. Teenagers (57 percent) and adults under age 30 (54 percent) who have heard about it were more likely than older adults to think the Green New Deal is realistic.

And most of the Green New Deal’s goals are broadly popular.

The objectives of the Green New Deal, as defined by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) in a resolution this February, are many and massive: To provide all Americans with high-quality health care, to guarantee them jobs with good wages and to meet 100 percent of their power demands through clean energy.

The guarantee of jobs with good wages for all workers is the single most popular goal, with 78 percent of Americans saying they would support the Green New Deal if it would accomplish that and only 20 percent saying they would oppose it.

The second-most popular goal is upgrading all buildings to be more energy efficient (70 percent in favor and 27 percent opposed), followed by achieving zero-emission energy sources within 10 years (69 percent to 28 percent)

Providing all people with health care through a new government program also won wide approval, by a more than 2-to-1 margin, but there was a significant disparity between the parties. Republicans and Democrats also diverged widely on whether to back major new business regulations and a reduction in the number of U.S. coal-mining jobs.

But the biggest obstacle the Green New Deal faces remains its potential cost.

Here’s the kicker to that support, though: Two-thirds of Americans (67 percent) said they would oppose the Green New Deal if it increased federal spending by trillions of dollars.

While Ocasio-Cortez’s resolution did not come with any official price tag, she has said it would cost $10 trillion over several years.Trump and other conservative lawmakers are saying that could be as high as $100 trillion, an estimate based on a tweet by a Manhattan Institute scholar.

Most of the Democratic presidential field, including former vice president Joe Biden and Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), have embraced the idea of a Green New Deal. And their campaigns attach much lower costs for their climate plans.

Biden put the cost of his climate plan at $1.7 trillion. Warren’s proposal to invest in clean energy programs as part of a Green New Deal would cost $2 trillion. And Sanders wants to spend $16.3 trillion to enact his version of the Green New Deal.