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California poll: support for climate law, opposition to oil drilling

July 28, 2010 |  9:00 pm

AB 32 pollJul10 The state’s climate-change law, AB 32, has been a hot topic on the campaign trail this year — with the Republican candidates for governor and U.S. Senate branding it as a “job-killer,” as opponents of the law marshal support for a November ballot measure that would suspend implementation until the state’s unemployment rate drops to 5.5% for a year.

But despite the controversy over the 2006 law, which would reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, a new poll shows that two-thirds (67%) of California residents continue to back it — about the same level as last year. 

Given the controversy over AB 32, Mark Baldassare, president of the Public Policy Institute of California, said he was somewhat surprised by the steady level of support. The findings stand in contrast with last year, when backing for AB 32 dropped to 66% from its high of 78% in 2007.   

“We’ve had a very poor year in terms of the economy and the budget in California, and this doesn’t seem to have impacted it,” Baldassare said. Despite a flurry of competing studies looking at how the law might affect jobs, “People aren’t necessarily connecting climate-change policy and economic performance,” he said.  

In a reflection of the partisan rancor, however, support for the law is sharply divided along party lines, with 39% of Republicans backing the law and 49% opposed. About twice as many Democrats favor the law (80%) compared with 73% of independent voters, according to the institute’s survey.

The findings also suggest a pitched battle ahead over the ballot measure, Proposition 23. Though pollsters did not ask specifically about the initiative, they asked whether the state should take action “right away” on its plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or wait until the state’s economy and job situation improve. On that point, likely California voters were evenly split (48% to 48%).

Among Democrats, 63% favored immediate action on the state’s plans, and 55% of independent voters shared that view. Two-thirds of Republicans said they preferred to wait until the economy gets better. Supporters of Proposition 23 filed suit in Sacramento County Superior Court on Tuesday challenging the language on the ballot describing the measure.

In the survey’s most dramatic finding, the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico appears to be hardening opposition to more drilling off the California coast, which shot up to 59% from 43% last year. Most voters expressed little confidence that the federal government would be able to prevent a future spill.

The Public Policy Institute surveyed 2,502 state residents by telephone between July 6 and July 20. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 2 percentage points for the entire sample.

-- Maeve Reston in Los Angeles

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