A new survey indicates that voters are more likely to support candidates who support clean energy legislation, when the survey links clean energy with job creation. The poll was conducted by Public Policy Polling for the National Resources Defense Council, covering 23 key Congressional districts that are locked in close races. The outcome in these districts could set the stage for crucial energy legislation in the future, so let’s take a closer look at one of them, the much-watched VA-5 race in which freshman incumbent Congressman Tom Perriello is facing a challenge from Virginia Senator Robert Hurt, who opposes climate legislation and favors oil drilling off the Virginia coast.
Clean Energy Legislation and VA-5
If Perriello wins his race, it could provide a clear measure of how strongly clean energy issues resonate with voters, even in the face of aggressive and well-funded campaigns against it. VA-5 is shaping up to be a textbook case: the lobbying group Americans for Prosperity has girded up for all-out battle to defeat Periello including buying ads, staging a bus tour featuring Dick Morris with a Fox News tie-in, and setting up a website that provides individuals around the country with access to voter phone lists in order to phone bank from out-of-state. AFP set the groundwork for the campaign as far back as the summer of 2009 by providing signs to “grassroots” protesters to disrupt Periello’s town hall meetings. As for why AFP is dead set against clean energy legislation, it probably goes back to AFP’s founding by major players in the oil industry. Ironically, along with clean energy Perriello also supports a soup-to-nuts energy policy that includes the continued promotion of fossil fuels, but apparently even this inclusive approach is not a good fit for AFP.
Clean Energy, Green Jobs
NRDC notes that a “clear majority” of voters in 21 of the 23 districts surveyed supported clean energy legislation, and the two remaining districts were in a dead heat (Public Policy Polling, by the way, has a solid reputation for accuracy). The survey also found that voters were more likely to support clean energy candidates by a 20-point spread. NRDC concludes that the results clearly illustrate the effect of spin on voter preferences. When clean energy legislation is presented as a job-creator, people like it. If the same legislation is presented as something that will raise taxes and eliminate jobs, naturally people don’t like it so much. That might seem like a point so obvious it almost kills, but that’s exactly what is playing out in California, where the oil industry, including the founders of Americans for Prosperity, has poured millions into an effort to neutralize AB 32, the state’s landmark clean energy legislation, by portraying it as a job eliminator.
Image: Solar energy installation courtesy of Wayne National Forest on flickr.com.