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Californians Support Change to Energy Policy with New Cap-and-Trade Program

Near even split among voters on whether or not to relax requirements of California Environmental Quality Act

Contact: Michelle Salzman at or (213) 821-9311; Merrill Balassone at or (213) 740-6156

November 16, 2012 — Californians overwhelmingly support a new law that requires some large businesses in the state to cut their greenhouse gas emissions or buy credits to offset their pollution, according to the latest USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll. 

By a margin of 2-to-1, voters support the Golden State’s new cap-and-trade program, the Global Warming Solutions Act, which was passed in 2006 and went into effect on Nov. 14, 2012. The law creates financial incentives to encourage companies to produce alternative energy and sets limits on the amount of pollution they can emit into the air.

When read a pair of statements describing arguments for and against the new cap-and-trade program, 63 percent of Californians agreed with the view that the state needs this change to “break from outdated energy policies.” The statement continued, arguing that the law would reward companies that produce alternative energy like wind and solar power, and will recharge the economy by creating jobs, attracting new, innovative companies to California, and reducing dependence on foreign oil.

Thirty-two percent of voters agreed more closely with the counter statement that “the cap-and-trade plan is a job-killing energy tax that will stifle economic growth” when the state can least afford it. The statement continued, arguing that the plan could raise gas prices, increase energy costs and cut thousands of jobs in California.

"Even as the debate continues over the economic impact of the state's new cap-and-trade rules, California voters seem to have made up their minds that they can have stronger environmental protections without sacrificing economic growth," said Dan Schnur, director of the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll and director of the Unruh Institute of Politics at USC. "The challenge for the state's business community is convincing Californians that cap-and-trade will cause significant harm to the economy, but it's clear from these poll results that they have a steep uphill fight."

Support for the law differs across party lines: 54 percent of registered Republicans agree more closely with the statement that cap-and-trade is something the state can’t afford while 42 percent believe it is the change California needs. Seventy-four percent of registered Democrats believe it is the change the state needs and 20 percent say it will stifle the economy. Of Decline to State voters, 68 percent say it’s the change we need, while 28 percent say California can’t afford it.


Voters are nearly split on whether or not to make changes to the California Environmental Quality Act, which requires companies and organizations who want to build something to complete an environmental impact study of the proposed project prior to approval. State legislators have recently proposed changing the law by streamlining environmental review and limiting lawsuits.

Forty-six percent of Californians said that relaxing the CEQA requirements is a good idea and 45 percent believed it to be a bad idea when read a pair of statements relaying arguments for each side.

The first statement said, "Some people say relaxing these requirements is a bad idea that will only have negative consequences on our environment and way of life, but also hurt our economy and reduce property values in the long run."

The second statement said, "Other people say relaxing these requirements is a good idea that will limit excessive government regulation," noting it would help businesses create jobs and jumpstart the economy by speeding up infrastructure projects and attracting businesses to the state.

Twenty-eight percent of voters said they strongly believed relaxing CEQA requirements is a bad idea and 16 percent "not so strongly" believed it was a bad idea. Twenty-nine percent said they strongly believed relaxing CEQA requirements is a good idea, and 18 percent believed it was a good idea "not so strongly." Five percent are undecided.

Support for amending the regulations shifts sharply across party lines: 52 percent of registered Democrats say relaxing CEQA is a bad idea and 38 percent say it is a good idea; 29 percent of registered Republicans say relaxing the regulations is a bad idea and 65 percent say it's a good idea; 49 percent of Decline to State voters say it's a bad idea and 40 percent say it's a good idea.

The USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll was conducted from Nov. 7-12, 2012, by Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and Republican polling firm American Viewpoint. The full sample of 1,520 registered voters has a margin of error of +/- 2.9 percentage points.

Poll results and methodology are available here.

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TWITTER: @usclatpoll

About the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences/Los Angeles Times Poll: The USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll is a series of statewide public opinion polls in California, designed to survey voter attitudes on a wide range of political, policy, social and cultural issues.

Conducted at regular intervals throughout the year, the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll is one of the largest polls of registered voters in the state and has been widely cited, helping to inform the public and to encourage discourse on key political and policy issues.

About USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences: USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences is the heart of the university. The largest, oldest and most diverse of USC's 19 schools, USC Dornsife is composed of more than 30 academic departments and dozens of research centers and institutes. USC Dornsife is home to approximately 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students and more than 750 faculty members with expertise across the humanities, social sciences and sciences.

About the Los Angeles Times: The Los Angeles Times is the largest metropolitan daily newspaper in the country, with a daily readership of 2 million and 3 million on Sunday, and a combined print and interactive local weekly audience of 4.5 million. The fast-growing draws over 10 million unique visitors monthly.