Florida Republicans’ views on environmental policy are shifting and supporting pro-environment initiatives no longer poses a threat to their support among the party’s base, a new survey shows.
North Star Opinion Research, commissioned by the Environmental Defense Fund, polled 600 registered voters in Florida and found support for environmental policies would have a net positive effect on voting, even among Republicans who, historically, have been reluctant to support climate change policy.
“By helping to shape and pass these proposals, Republicans can expand their support without losing their base,” the polling memo reads.
The poll found that 48% of Republican voters would be more likely to cast a ballot for a GOP candidate who supports environmental policies while only 10% would be less likely to vote for that candidate. The same percentage, 48%, said their opinion of a candidate would not change if that candidate supported any of the pollsters’ tested messages. Another 40% said that support would change their opinion.
Pollsters tested several messages and found that while Republican support for environmental policy is growing, there remains a disparity between support for water quality-related messaging and those that directly reference climate change, solar energy or infrastructure investment.
The least popular messaging — “addressing climate change, which leads to stronger hurricanes and more flooding in Florida that hurts property values and increases insurance costs” — received 50% support among Republicans and 42% opposition.
The terms “increasing the production and use of solar energy,” “reducing air pollution” and “improving Florida’s infrastructure, dropped to the 35% to 39% strong support range among Republican voters.
Meanwhile, support was much higher when focusing on clean water or coastline messaging.
Asked about “keeping our coastlines and waterways clean of pollution and algae that damages our economy and public health” and “restoring the Everglades to protect economy and public health” each received more than 50% strong support from Republican voters.
The responses suggest Republican voters are still hesitant to put too much emphasis on climate change. The poll’s data supports that.
Fewer than half of Republicans are at least somewhat concerned about climate change, according to the poll. Further, 45% of Republican voters acknowledge climate change, but still believe it is a naturally occurring event that humans cannot affect. A full 43% of Republican voters say climate change needs to be addressed, with 27% saying it should be addressed now and 16% saying it should be addressed in the coming years. A full 10% of voters deny climate change entirely.
Still, pollsters say the data shows Florida Republicans are changing their minds on climate change.
“The partisanship on these issues is kind of melting away,” said Adrian Gray, a longtime Republican and former President George W. Bush staffer who served as the lead pollster.
“Republicans, especially in Florida, they’re not necessarily more progressive or moderate on these issues, they’re just further in time, they’re about 10 years ahead of where other people are.”
He said that is likely driven by Floridians’ firsthand experience with the effects of climate change, pointing to sunny day flooding events, particularly in South Florida.
Still, Republicans are far behind Democrats on the issue. While Republicans have reached a plurality on climate change and a majority support broad environmental policy, Democrats overwhelmingly support action on both. A full 72% of Democrats believe climate change should be addressed now while another 9% say it should be addressed in the coming years. Only 11% of Democrats believe it’s a natural event and that humans can’t do anything about it while just 4% deny climate change all together.