“I am not banning fracking,” Joe Biden said at a Monday campaign stop in Pittsburgh. “Let me say that again. I’m not banning fracking, no matter how many times Donald Trump lies about me.”
For the past decade conventional wisdom has held that natural gas development is an issue that benefits Republicans over Democrats. It has motivated attacks from Trump and allied super PACs. The New York Times, in a representative headline, called it “The swing issue that could win a swing state.”
“The conventional wisdom about Pennsylvania voters and fracking is wrong,” said Lori Lodes, Executive Director of Climate Power 2020. The coalition of environmental advocacy groups unveiled a new poll Monday in an effort to show that a more granular look at public opinion favors Democrats on energy and the environment. That gap widened even more after respondents heard pro-Trump and pro-Biden arguments.
“Pennsylvania voters believe climate change is a serious problem and are ready for lawmakers to take action. Trump’s lies and made-up attacks on climate change are backfiring in a state he must win to hold on to his presidency,” Lodes continued.
The poll found Biden ahead of Trump by 8 points, 50-to-42, in Pa. However, Biden extends his lead over Trump to 15 points, 55-to-40, after respondents heard prominent talking points meant to reflect both parties’ positions on fracking and climate change. Biden’s net favorability rating also jumped 11 points, to 56-to-41, after respondents heard all the talking points.
The pro-Trump message read, in part: “Joe Biden wants to ban fracking in Pennsylvania, which would kill 600,000 jobs.” The pro-Biden message read, in part: “Joe Biden does not support a ban on fracking – he supports common sense safeguards to protect our water from contamination by toxic chemicals.”
The full survey memo, including questions and talking points used, is here.
Climate Power 2020 is an independently run project created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund, the League of Conservation Voters, and the Sierra Club. Its Pennsylvania operation is co-chaired by Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and state Reps. Sara Innamorato (D-Allegheny) and Malcolm Kenyatta (D-Philadelphia).
The online, voter-file matched survey was conducted by Global Strategy Group and included 801 registered voters in Pennsylvania between August 13-19 and has a ± 3.5% margin of error. Global Strategy Group polling leans in Democrats favor by an average of 1.8%, according to analysts at FiveThirtyEight, which gives the pollster a B/C rating.
Any internal poll results should be taken with a grain of salt. Climate Action 2020 is up front about its intentions by releasing it: to encourage Dems to go on offense on energy and the environment.
To that end, it drills deeper than the typically broad phrasing of poll questions, like an August poll from CBS News which asked, “Do you generally favor or oppose the process of fracking in the state of Pennsylvania?” (52% oppose vs 48% support).
Most striking of all is the difference between simple phrasing. 61% of respondents had a favorable view of the “natural gas industry” versus 23% unfavorable – net favorable by 38 points. But 50% of respondents had an unfavorable view of “the fracking industry” versus 32% favorable, net unfavorable by 18 points. That is a swing of 56 points merely by saying “fracking” in place of “natural gas.”
The memo doesn’t indicate that the pollster asked about a total moratorium on fracking. But it did find broad support for increased regulation. 66% said that they supported that position, a number that grew to 74% when specific examples of regulations were provided. 62% of respondents said they’d support switching to renewable energy by 2050. The memo shows voters in the Philly market consistently support the measures by 10-to-24 points more than voters in the Pittsburgh market.
The results are a stark contrast to a recent poll from the American Petroleum Institute. That poll was conducted between June 26-July 1, 2020 by Morning Consult, among a sample of 799 Pennsylvania Registered Voters. It found a Pa. electorate that is more or less happy with current energy policies – albeit inclined to support clean energy and to minimize environmental harm.
80% in that poll said natural gas and oil provide value to them personally, while just 13% said it does not provide much value or no value at all to them. 60% said that they would either be “much more likely” or “somewhat more likely” to vote for a candidate who supports access to natural gas and oil produced in the U.S., while 13% said that they’d be “much less likely” and “somewhat less likely” to support that candidate, and 27% said that they weren’t sure. It did not include a Trump-v-Biden ballot test.
67% in that poll said that it is “extremely/very important” to invest in the development of new clean energy sources, however.
The full poll is here.
On the generic ballot for Congress, Democrats led 51-to-44 in the Climate Power 2020 poll.
Rep. Kenyatta, who serves as a co-chair of the Pennsylvania operation, said that the polling released from the group shows that voters in the state want “bold action on climate change.”
“Voters across Pennsylvania want bold action on climate change,” he said. “Transformational investments in clean energy will create jobs and give our economy the boost it needs right now. People have had enough of President Trump’s COVID and climate denialism, and they are not falling for the false attacks on Joe Biden’s bold climate plan.”
PoliticsPA is seeking comment from the Trump campaign on this polling.
See the full survey here.
This story was updated to correct the name of the group as Climate Power 2020, not Climate Action.