Poll: Few Think Biden's Climate Change Law Will Help

(AP) -- Like many Americans, Ron Theusch is getting more worried about climate change.

A resident of Alden, Minnesota, Theusch has noticed increasingly dry and mild winters punctuated by short periods of severe cold -- symptoms of a warming planet.

As he thinks about that, future generations are on his mind. "We have four children that are in their 20s," the 56-year-old truck driver and moderate Democrat said. "It's like, what's our grandkids' world going to be like?"

A new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows that 45% of adults in the United States say they have become more concerned about climate change over the past year, including roughly 6 in 10 Democrats and one-quarter of Republicans.

President Joe Biden's signature climate change policy, the Inflation Reduction Act, was intended to address some of those fears, investing billions in incentives for consumers and businesses to move toward clean energy sources. Biden has pointed to this climate agenda as a major presidential success during his run for reelection. But the poll suggests that although the law has already affected some Americans, it's not widely known among the general population -- and may not be the electoral boost Biden is looking for.

About one-quarter of Americans say tax credits for renewable energy projects such as wind power have benefited people like them so far, with similar numbers for incentives for companies to manufacture clean energy technologies in the U.S. rather than abroad, tax credits for individuals to add solar panels to their homes, or subsidies and tax credits for electric vehicles and energy-efficient appliances like heat pumps. Those numbers are fairly substantial for a law that passed less than two years ago, where the benefits largely hinge on big-ticket purchases like cars or home improvements.

Promoting electric vehicles has also been a major focus for the Biden administration, and 15% of U.S. adults say electric vehicles have had a good impact on them personally.

"I totally agree with the act because it's done so many things for people," said Charles Lopez, a 65-year-old liberal Democrat from the Florida Keys. "They help everybody ... I'm not ready for a full electric, but I'll get there when there's enough charging stations."

But the people who have benefited from the law are disproportionately Democrats. And while only about 1 in 10 U.S. adults think the individual tax credits and subsidies have hurt people like them, those provisions of the law aren't yet registering with the majority of Americans --- roughly one-quarter say those credits haven't made a difference to people like them. Nearly 4 in 10 in each instance don't know enough to have an opinion about them.

"I still think that, as much as we'd like for them to be implemented in a way that we can actually see results, it's not really happening in my eyes," said Sandra Sherman, a 62-year-old resident of Vero Beach, Florida, who identifies as a liberal Democrat. "With solar panels, although it seems like a really good idea, I see very few people in the area in Florida that I live in that actually have them."

Generally, U.S. adults also aren't confident the IRA will have an impact even in more time. The poll found that only between 23% and 35% of U.S. adults say the law's key components will eventually help address climate change. About 2 in 10 think the main provisions of the law will make no difference in addressing climate change, and about one-third don't know enough to say.

"A lot of the public feeling on it is, 'well something needs to be done,' but not necessarily knowing what needs to be done or not even necessarily having strong feelings about what needs to be done," said David Weakliem, a University of Connecticut professor emeritus.

Biden still has an advantage over his opponent, former President Donald Trump, when it comes to climate change generally. About 4 in 10 U.S. adults and two-thirds of Democrats have "a lot" or "some" trust in Biden on climate change. That includes 29-year-old Jaime Said, a moderate Republican.

Biden has "talked about it more and he has mentioned a few plans of things he wants to do. So even if he doesn't do them, at the very least he's thinking about them. That's kind of headed in the right direction," Said, a medical student in Panama City, Florida, said.

"I know already, right off the bat, (Trump is) not going to address it much," Said added. "That's why I don't have too much faith in him doing anything about it."

Only about 3 in 10 say they have "a lot" or "some" trust in Trump with regard to addressing climate change.

But one of Biden's major pitches for the IRA -- that it will help the American economy and U.S. workers -- doesn't seem to be resonating. According to the poll, only about 2 in 10 Americans say the law has done more to help the U.S. economy, while about one-quarter think it's done more to hurt the economy, and about half think it either made no difference or don't know enough to say.

And broadly, a majority of Americans say the federal government is currently doing "too little" to address climate change. They generally agree it's important for the government to support climate solutions. About half say it's extremely or very important to limit the use of products and technologies that harm the environment, and nearly half say it's important for the government to pass stricter environmental laws and regulations. About 4 in 10 say it's important for the government to build a national network of public charging stations for electric vehicles, which is another Biden administration priority.

Most say it's extremely or very important for the federal government to invest in new, environmentally friendly technologies, and most, like 38-year-old Julio Carmona, a health program associate who lives in Stratford, Connecticut, and identifies as a moderate Democrat, say the same about enforcing current environmental regulations.

"We can all do our part when it comes to saving energy, recycling and all those other things," said Carmona. "But if the big corporations aren't doing it, I think that, for me, would be where the government should start."


The poll of 1,204 adults was conducted April 4-8, 2024, using a sample drawn from NORC's probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.

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