Big support for Keystone, mixed climate change views: Pew poll

Olivier Knox

President Barack Obama will please 66 percent of Americans while riling his liberal base if he approves the Keystone XL pipeline opposed by environmentalists but backed by the oil industry, according to a new poll out Tuesday from the nonpartisan Pew Research Center. And the survey got a mixed message from the public on climate change.

Officially, the State Department is still reviewing TransCanada’s proposed pipeline, which would carry oil from tar sands in the province of Alberta to refineries along the Gulf Coast. Obama told House Republicans at a behind-closed-doors meeting in mid-March that he was not ruling out approving the project (while playing down sunny job-creation estimates).

Pew found that 66 percent support building the pipeline while just 23 percent oppose it. Support comes from 82 percent of Republicans, 70 percent of independents and 54 percent of Democrats (though just 42 percent of liberal Democrats). Small wonder, then, that the Senate in late March approved a nonbinding resolution endorsing the pipeline by a lopsided 62-37 ratio.

What about the findings on climate change?

The poll found that 69 percent say there is "solid evidence" that the Earth is warming, while 28 percent say there isn't. (The global scientific community's consensus is that climate change is real.) That's not much of a shift from October 2012, when 67 percent said as much, but is 12 points higher than it was in October 2009.

But the number of Americans who regard global warming as a "very serious" problem has ebbed from 39 percent in October to 33 percent now. Thirty-two percent say it is a "somewhat serious" problem, up from 25 percent in October. In 2006, 43 percent said global warming was a "very serious problem" while 36 percent said it was "somewhat serious."

Among those who say they see solid evidence of climate change, 42 percent say it's the result of human activity, while 23 percent say it's the result of natural environmental patterns.

Partisan divide? You bet: 87 percent of Democrats say there is solid evidence of global warming, against 44 percent of Republicans. And while 57 percent of Democrats say it's due to human activity, just 19 percent of Republicans say the same.