Americans Oppose EPA & Environmental Budget Cuts

Americans concerned about their health shouldn’t breathe easy just because Congress left town after the dramatically failed effort to take away health care from tens of millions of people. While it may take a while for Republican leaders to tackle that fight again, September will see Congress wrangle over a federal spending debate that also has the potential to significantly affect the health, safety and welfare of millions of Americans.

The federal government’s funding runs out on September 30th unless Congress approves new spending. This happens every year, and every year Republican leaders try to use the process to cut funding for or outright block essential programs across multiple Departments that protect our health, safety and welfare.

Americans rely on these programs to keep our air and water clean, support new clean energy and transportation solutions, study climate change and its solutions, protect federal lands and oceans from expanded oil and gas drilling, and protect communities from severe weather (to name a few.) NRDC commissioned a highly regarded pollster, American Viewpoint, which since 1985 has worked with Republican candidates across the country from the Presidential level on down, to find out whether Americans support or oppose such cuts.

American Viewpoint's polling suggests that Members of Congress should avoid any cuts or language in federal spending bills that would reduce or block such programs.

“There is a great deal of resistance to various cuts in the proposed budget related to the environment…Note that this opposition isn’t just among Democrats, but also among Independents, as well as a significant portion of Republicans.”

And here are the specific findings:

  • Widespread Support for Environmental Funding & Safeguards: Only 22 percent of respondents believe the federal government spends too much on protecting the environment.
  • Resistance to Budget Cuts: Nearly two-thirds of Americans oppose cutting funding for the Environmental Protection Agency; programs that reduce pollution in low-income and minority communities; and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, providers of forecasts and early warnings about dangerous weather and natural disasters.
  • Cross-Party Support: The strongest support for these safeguards and programs—and opposition to cutbacks—is from Democrats and Independents. But a sizable number of Republicans, more than one-third in most cases, also oppose them. 

The poll also drilled into whether respondents favored or opposed cuts to  individual ares through a series of specific questions. Here are some of the more illuminating findings:

(NOAA stands for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the scientific agency that monitors and studies our atmosphere and oceans.)

Those were just the first questions we asked about each topic. We then explained the arguments that supporters of funding cuts typically make for those cuts, and the counter-arguments against the cuts that NRDC and others make, then we asked again whether people supported or opposed the cuts. This additional round of questions reveals the very strong commitment of Americans to protecting these important environmental programs, since even after hearing contrary arguments, support remained strong, with only a small number of people changing their views. The pollster’s summary memo and slide deck have the full details, but the following table has a summary of the results of these "paired statements."

It also shows that opposition to budget cuts spans political affiliation. More than half of Independents oppose cuts in all categories. More than a third of Republicans oppose cuts in three of the seven areas: NOAA, energy efficiency programs, and R&D for renewable tech

I’ll leave it to NRDC President and CEO Rhea Suh to lay out the bottom line:“President Trump and Republican leaders should think twice about pushing unpopular spending plans that put polluters first and our health and safety last,” said NRDC President Rhea Suh. “This poll carries an unmistakable warning. Americans stand firmly against cutting protections for clean air, water and lands, or jeopardizing clean energy gains that are creating jobs and saving money. They won’t support infrastructure plans that sell off community assets and reduce federal investment in public transit. And they reject opening public lands to oil and gas development.”

For more information, see our press release, the summary memo and the slide deck

About the Authors

Pete Altman

Director of Federal Campaigns

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