Even as Democrats place climate change at the forefront of their election strategy, polls show the novel coronavirus pandemic is taking the wind out of the climate issue’s sails.
A Harris Poll survey conducted for Fortune found that climate change has dropped since December from first to second-to-last on a list of a dozen issues facing society, according to Harris CEO Will Johnson, who added he was “personally surprised and discouraged to discover that our devotion to the world around us is flagging.”
“Among Gen X men, in fact, more than third dismiss climate change as unimportant,” said Mr. Johnson in a Monday post. “COVID-19 and the recession have, of course, reordered priorities around the world. Still, the coronavirus didn’t elbow aside other issues as muscularly as it did climate change.”
The post was headlined: “Amid COVID-19, Americans don’t care about climate change anymore.”
Meanwhile, a Gallup poll taken July 1-23 found climate change ranked last on a list of 16 non-economic issues, with “coronavirus/diseases” ranking first and “the government/poor leadership” coming in second, while crime and the judicial system rose in importance.
Only 1% of 1,007 U.S. adults surveyed ranked “climate change/environment/pollution” as “the most important problem facing this country today,” down from 2% in the May 28-June 4 poll, according to the Gallup results released Aug. 5.
The surveys come as Democrats for trillion-dollar investments in wind and solar energy as part of a national strategy to combat the rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide. The Biden campaign’s climate plan would spend $2 trillion to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.
Previous surveys have shown that Americans are concerned about climate change but not concerned enough to open their wallets. An AP-NORC poll released last year found that 68% were unwilling to foot even a $10 increase in their monthly electricity bill to combat global warming.
“Was there any amount Americans were willing to pay to combat climate change? Yes, $1 dollar,” said the Cato Institute analysis. “Fifty‐seven percent (57%) of Americans would be willing to pay a $1 a month fee in their electric bills to combat climate change.”
Given a list of nine policy initiatives that could “fight global warming or help the environment generally,” the Harris Poll found that only one drew majority support: 51% supported “tax credits or rebates for greater energy efficiency in buildings.”
“Moreover, 13% of all respondents say the government should do nothing to improve the environment, a stance that rises to nearly one in five of all survey takers in the South,” said Mr. Johnson.
He noted that the pandemic has resulted in reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. Airline travel has plummeted, and car travel has also decreased as many Americans work from home under shelter-in-place orders.
When the pandemic ends or comes under control, however, “American adults say they’ll behave in ways that would increase their carbon footprint,” Mr. Johnson said.
“According to our survey, we’ll drive as much as we did before, take public transportation less, bicycle or walk less, buy more clothes, and have more stuff packaged up and shipped to our homes,” he said. “And most of us plan to jack up the home AC and heat even more than we already have.”
The poll of 1,083 representative respondents also found that a plurality, or 39%, saw the pandemic as good for the environment in the short run, but damaging in the long term.
Climate activists have sought to connect the virus to global emissions. Former Vice President Al Gore tweeted in May that “we are in the midst of two crises — the #coronavirus pandemic and climate change.”
“The climate activists are still in shock over how their issue has collapsed as a concern among the public,” said Climate Depot’s Marc Morano in an email. “The environmental left is now striving to figure out how to piggyback the climate issues onto COVID in order to stay relevant.”
Junk Science’s Steve Milloy, a member of President Trump’s EPA transition team, said in a statement that the Gallup poll “shows that once again Americans place a very low priority on climate change.”
“Real, serious threats confronting the nation today (coronavirus, the economy, China, and urban rioting to name a few) rationally and greatly outweigh the alarmist fantasies of far-off bad weather,” said Mr. Milloy. “Perhaps Joe Biden and the Democratic Party should take note.”