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Poll: Californians care for the environment, not so much for President Trump

Any surprise that Californians disdain offshore oil drilling, welcome wind and wave energy development, consider global warming a serious threat and don’t care for the way President Donald Trump is handling his job?

And is it news that Los Angelenos are more than twice as concerned about air pollution as Bay Area residents?

California’s clean, green, left-leaning sentiment comes through consistently in the Public Policy Institute’s latest survey, “Californians & the Environment,” based on telephone interviews with 1,708 adults in mid-July.

The poll’s findings found support for offshore oil drilling at an all-time low, with just 25 percent in favor and 69 percent opposed. Large majorities of Democrats (81 percent) and independents (68 percent) are against more oil wells, along with 45 percent of Republicans.

“There’s little that’s surprising,” said David McCuan, a Sonoma State University political scientist who regards PPIC as a respected polling organization.

Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, who represents the profoundly green North Coast, said the poll “reaffirms what most of us already know.”

“Californians want no part of offshore drilling (and) they like the direction of California’s environmental leadership” on issues like climate, clean energy and “careful stewardship of water and other limited resources,” Huffman said.

McCuan noted a likely gap between what Californians want in the abstract, such as clean air and water, and what they will spend on it. “The real crux of the matter is how we address these things and who’s willing to pay for it,” he said.

Still, he said, California’s environmental sensibility can resonate across the country and could make it to a “top-five issue” nationwide, close behind jobs and the economy.

The poll might also play a role in the 2018 gubernatorial race.

The front-runner, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, has solid environmental credentials, while newly elected Sen. Kamala Harris is striving for some and billionaire philanthropist Tom Steyer is going all-in, McCuan said.

“If you are Tom Steyer you flaunt this poll early and often,” he said.

Some of the poll’s other findings were:

Wind and wave energy finds favor with 73 percent of adults, with Democrats, Republicans and independents all in the 70s and only 19 percent overall opposed;

Two-thirds of adults say the effects of global warming have begun, including 78 percent of Democrats, 65 percent of independents and 40 percent of Republicans. Only 11 percent of adults think the effects will not come in their lifetime and 8 percent say it will never happen;

Most Democrats (69 percent) consider global warming a “very serious” threat to the future of California’s economy and quality of life; half of independents (53 percent) concur and one in four Republicans holds that view. Only 10 percent of adults said the threat is “not at all serious;” and

Trump’s approval rating is a mere 25 percent among adults, with a pronounced partisan divide of 68 percent approval among Republicans, 33 percent from independents and just 9 percent among Democrats. The president’s approval rating in a recent Gallup national tracking poll was 39 percent, the PPIC report said.

Only 22 percent of adults supported Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, with 86 percent of Democrats, 68 percent of independents and 32 percent of Republicans opposed.

“The Trump administration is out of step with where California is going,” said Barry Vesser, deputy director of the Santa Rosa-based Center for Climate Protection.

Vesser said he was heartened by the finding that half of California’s adults - a record high in PPIC polling since 2010 - think state action to reduce global warming would create more jobs versus 22 percent who expect fewer jobs and 19 percent anticipate no effect.

Air pollution was rated a “big problem” by 39 percent of adults in Los Angeles, compared with 17 percent in both the Bay Area and Orange and San Diego counties combined.

Statewide, dirty air was a big issue for 24 percent of adults.

Concern over water also showed a geographic variance with 46 percent of adults in the Inland Empire (San Bernardino and Riverside counties) calling it a “big problem” compared with 30 percent in the Bay Area and 37 percent statewide.

However, 38 percent of respondents statewide said their local government was not doing enough on water conservation, a sentiment fairly consistent among five regions.

You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 707-521-5457 or guy.kovner@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter ?@guykovner.

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