Bipartisan Poll: Virginians Embrace Clean Energy & Climate Action

With climate debate heating up in Richmond, 83 percent of Virginians want state-crafted plan to curb carbon emissions, and even more want added investments in energy efficiency and renewable power

WASHINGTON (February 3, 2015) – New bipartisan public opinion research reveals that strong majorities of Virginians support federal action to curb dangerous climate pollution and increase investments in clean energy, and the vast majority want the state to initiate its own plan to meet new federal standards.

The poll conducted for the Natural Resources Defense Council found that 64 percent of Virginians support the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan to set limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants, while 83 percent—including strong majorities of Democrats, Republicans and Independents—would like to see Virginia develop its own state-based plan to meet the standards, particularly through expanding clean energy and energy efficiency.

Virginians also would welcome leadership from Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

“Right now there are no limits on how much dangerous carbon pollution power plants can dump into our air,” said Walton Shepherd, NRDC Energy and Transportation Program staff attorney. “We need to limit carbon pollution because climate change threatens the health of Virginians, and dangerous impacts like rising sea-levels are already apparent in Hampton Roads. Virginians support the clean energy solutions that will help us cut carbon pollution and steer us to a cleaner energy future that boosts our economy and protects our health while keeping energy prices affordable. But it’s up to Virginia’s leadership to create the plans and put them into action.”

As the debate over climate action ramps up in the Commonwealth, the new poll conducted by the bipartisan polling team of Public Opinion Strategies and Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates demonstrates strong bipartisan support for state-based leadership.

Ninety-three percent of Virginians support expanding utility programs to help consumers improve their homes’ energy efficiency and reduce electricity bills, while 88 percent support increasing the use of clean and renewable sources of energy like wind and solar.

Strong majorities also believe investments in clean energy will create jobs and clean up the air without raising consumers’ energy costs; in fact, most Virginians believe increase investment in clean energy will cause energy costs to fall.

The Clean Power Plan gives Virginia, and all states, broad flexibility to develop the most cost-effective way of meeting state-specific carbon pollution reduction targets. If a state chooses not to craft a state-based implementation plan, a federal plan will offer the people of Virginia less flexibility—and control—over their clean energy future.

The poll was released in a telephone press conference today joined by Shepherd of NRDC, pollsters Dave Metz and Lori Weigel, Dan Smolen, managing director of Green Suits LLC in Virginia, and Dr. Samantha Ahdoot, practicing physician in Alexandria, and fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

“As a pediatrician, I care for the group most vulnerable to the health consequences of climate change-our children.  Children today are already experiencing worsening respiratory and allergic disease due to impacts on air quality and plant pollen production, changes in patterns of some climate sensitive infections, and increasing weather disasters,” said Dr. Ahdoot. “These impacts are expected to increase as the global temperature rises. That’s why public health organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics supports the Clean Power Plan, as a major step forward in our transition to a clean energy future. It will curb harmful pollution that contributes to climate disasters and give us healthier air – reducing asthma and lung disease, and ultimately saving lives.”

Smolen added:  “Virginia has a skilled and talented workforce, and is home to world-class universities and technical schools that can train the next generation of clean energy workers. Virginia also is blessed with more military veterans than any other state, men and women who are skilled, innovative, adaptable and ready to go to work scaling up our move to clean energy. Virginia already employs thousands of people in the clean energy sector, from engineers to construction workers to port workers to administrative assistants.  These are middle-class jobs that pay good benefits, and many cannot be outsourced. Our leaders should do all they can to support clean energy policies that provide a bright future for Virginians.”

Here are more details from the bipartisan survey:


The Clean Power Plan draws majority support: 64 percent of Virginians back the EPA’s plan, including 41 percent who “strongly” support it. That corresponds closely with an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released after the Clean Power Plan was announced last June, which found 67 percent of Americans in support.

  • Virginians want the state in the driver’s seat: 83 percent statewide—including strong majorities of Democrats, Republicans and Independents—support Virginia’s efforts to develop a state-based plan to lower carbon pollution emitted by power plants and increasing the use of clean energy and energy efficiency. Geographically, support ranges from 74 percent in the Richmond-Petersburg area to an event stronger 85 percent in the Hampton Road region.


  • Broad majorities support all elements of a potential plan crafted by Virginia, particularly on clean energy: For example, 93 percent “support” expanding utility programs to help consumers improve their homes’ energy efficiency and reduce electricity bills, with 73 percent “strongly” in favor. Eighty-eight percent “support” increasing use of clean and renewable energy like wind and solar, with 64 percent indicating strong support.


  • Virginians would welcome Governor McAuliffe’s leadership: If the governor were to develop a state plan to reduce carbon pollution and promote the use of clean energy and increased energy efficiency, nearly half (48 percent) of Virginians would view him more favorably, while only five percent would view him less favorably.
  • Virginians see tremendous promise in clean energy and improving energy efficiency: Nearly 95 percent support increased energy efficiency to meet Virginia’s future needs, and more than 8 in 10 want to boost the state’s use of renewable power, including wind and solar.


  • Virginians believe clean energy will create jobs—but not at the expense of consumers: More than six in 10 say using more sources of clean, renewable energy from the wind and sun will create jobs, while nearly half (49 percent) believe it also will lower consumers’ energy costs.


To derive these findings, the pollsters jointly conducted a survey of 400 registered voters throughout Virginia via landline and cell phone from January 7-11, 2015. The margin of sampling error for the full study is +/- 4.9 percentage points.

For a detailed memo on the poll, click here:


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