Twenty-six states have joined a lawsuit against the federal government to stop its Clean Power Plan (CPP), which requires states to reduce carbon dioxide emissions two percent a year. Oral arguments are scheduled to begin in the District of Columbia Court of Appeals on September 27.

It is often said that states are closer to the people than the federal government, but are the states that are party to this suit really representing the majority of their voters? A new in-depth survey, conducted by the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation, reveals that even with balanced information about the plan, two-thirds of the voters living in the states suing the government actually favor the Clean Power Plan, only slightly less than the seven-in-ten who favor it nationally.

As part of the survey, respondents went through a ‘policymaking simulation’ in which they were told about the projected increases in the costs of electricity (up to three percent in the short term), and the potential negative effect on jobs and economic growth. But they were also told about the reduced negative health effects of air pollution such as asthma and heart attacks, as well as the reductions in greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. On balance, they favored the deal.

Respondents also evaluated pro and con arguments before coming to their conclusions. All the content of this ‘Citizen Cabinet’ survey was vetted by both Republican and Democratic congressional staffers and other outside groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, before it was fielded, to ensure the information was accurate and the strongest arguments were presented on both sides. The survey was conducted with a representative sample that included 4,394 registered voters nationally and 2,308 in the states that are suing.

Support for the plan is broad but not fully bipartisan. In the states suing the government, 88 percent of Democrats favor the plan, while 45 percent of Republicans approve.

However, if efforts were made to mitigate the effect of the CPP on coal workers and the coal industry, support increases to a large bipartisan majority – 60 percent among Republicans, 94 percent among Democrats, and 77 percent overall. The most popular approach is to help coal workers who lose their jobs (overall 67 percent of voters, Republicans 54 percent, and Democrats 78 percent). However, the idea of subsidizing carbon sequestration to make coal more viable did not win majority support.

The CPP is central to the commitment the United States made at the UN climate conference in Paris, to reduce its greenhouse gases about two percent per year. As this new report also shows, in the states suing the government, seventy percent of registered voters approve of participating in the agreement. Among Republicans 50 percent approve (though 59 percent said the agreement is at least tolerable), while Democrats overwhelmingly approve (88 percent).

If you are wondering what you would conclude, if you were given the best arguments on both sides, you can now go through the same policymaking simulation that the survey respondents did and then share your recommendations with your Congressional representatives. To start, click here.

So, whatever is driving these states to oppose the CPP, it does not appear to be a majority of their voters.


This op-ed by Steven Kull first appeared at Huffington Post on September 28, 2016

ee_cover-largeAs litigators prepare oral arguments for the 26-state suit to stop the federal government from implementing the Clean Power Plan (CPP), a Citizen Cabinet survey finds that two-thirds of registered voters in the states party to the suit (67 percent) actually favor the Plan. Eight states were also surveyed, including three that are party to the lawsuit; in all three – Florida, Ohio and Texas – two-thirds or more also support the plan. In Oklahoma, which filed suit independently after the multi-state suit was filed, results were similar, with 68 percent approving the plan. Across the country as a whole, 69 percent approve of the CPP, with similar majorities in key swing states surveyed. 

The Clean Power Plan seeks to reduce greenhouse gases from power plants two to three percent a year. The District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear arguments on September 27.

The in-depth national survey, which also includes statewide samples in California, Florida, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas and Virginia, was conducted by the Program for Public Consultation, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland (PPC), and released by the nonpartisan group, Voice Of the People.  
“Clearly the forces driving this lawsuit are not arising from public resistance to the Clean Power Plan,” said PPC Director Steven Kull.  

Interestingly, even among respondents who work in the coal industry or have family members that do, 62 percent support the CPP. 

Support was not however, bipartisan. Nationally only 47 percent of Republicans are in favor, and a slight majority of 52 percent oppose the plan. Among Democrats 89 percent approve, as does 64 percent of independents.

But if the federal government were to make efforts to mitigate the effect of the Clean Power Plan on coal workers – either by providing support for coal industry workers who lose their jobs or providing support to the coal industry by enabling it to sequester carbon dioxide – support increases to a bipartisan majority, rising to 61 percent among Republicans, 94 percent among Democrats, and 78 percent overall. Between these methods, providing support for coal industry workers who lose their job is far more popular (overall 73 percent, Republicans 68 percent, Democrats 80 percent) than providing support for carbon sequestration (overall 48 percent, Republicans 44 percent, Democrats 46 percent).   

There is bipartisan majority support, though, for specific measure to reduce carbon dioxide. Support for providing tax credits for installing fuel-efficient lighting, doors, windows and insulation, building new energy efficient homes and installing wind and fuel cells (overall ranging from 73-78 percent), ranges from 62-69 percent among Republicans, while Democratic support ranges from 84-87 percent.

Bipartisan majorities also favor requiring higher fuel efficiency standards for light cars and trucks, heavy duty vehicles and requiring electric companies to have a minimum portion of their electricity come from renewable sources (overall 71-74 percent). Republican support for these ranges from 56-57 percent, while for Democrats, 84-89 percent.

The CPP is central to the commitment as part of the United States participating in the international agreement negotiated in Paris and signed in New York in April, 2016, by which the U.S. has agreed to pursue the goal of reducing its greenhouse gases by 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, or about two percent per year. Seventy-one percent of American registered voters approve of participating in the agreement. Among Republicans a slim majority (52 percent) approve, but 61 percent said the agreement is at least tolerable. Democrats overwhelmingly approve (89 percent) as did independents (66 percent). 

Support for reduction of carbon dioxide appears to be driven by concerns about the health effects of air pollution as much or more than concerns about climate change. While carbon dioxide does not have a direct effect on health, steps that reduce carbon dioxide also reduce soot and smog, which do have negative health effects. Seventy-four percent say that it should be a high priority to reduce air pollution from energy production (Republicans 51 percent, Democrats 93 percent). Seventy percent nationally say it should be a high priority to reduce greenhouse gases (Republicans 44 percent, Democrats 91 percent).  

The Citizen Cabinet panel of 5,975 respondents was drawn from Nielsen-Scarborough’s probability-based national panel, which was recruited by mail and telephone using a random sample of households. Additional recruiting by telephone and mail was conducted by Communication for Research. The margin of error is +/- 1.6 percent. State samples: Calif. 523 (MoE +/- 4.3 percent); Fla. 421 (+/- 4.8 percent); Md. 419 (+/- 4.8 percent); N.Y. 414 (+/- 4.8 percent); Ohio 449 (+/- 4.6 percent); Okla. 419 (+/- 4.8 percent); Texas 419 (+/- 4.8 percent); and Va. 441 (+/- 4.7 percent). The survey was fielded April 16–June 10, 2016.

Unlike a standard poll, Citizen Cabinet surveys take respondents through an online process called a ‘policymaking simulation’ that seeks to put them in the shoes of a policymaker, giving them essential information and presenting key arguments on both sides of each issue. The content of the simulation was vetted for accuracy and balance by Republican and Democratic congressional staffers, as well as experts from the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the World Resources Institute and the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy. 

Once the survey results are released, a public version of the policymaking simulation is posted at for anyone to try. Citizens are encouraged to go through the simulation and then share their recommendations with their Congressional representatives at: 

The full report can be found at:

The full questionnaire with frequencies can be found at:

The supplemental questionnaire with results for Michigan, North Carolina and Pennsylvania can be found at:

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