Michigan residents oppose GOP anti-EPA agenda

GRAND RAPIDS – Michigan residents strongly oppose Republican plans to block the role of the Environmental Protection Agency in regulating air pollution like greenhouse gas emissions, according to recent national surveys. Michigan is the home state of Republican Rep. Fred Upton, who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee and is leading the charge against the EPA.

“What we found is that there is overwhelming support for the EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions,” pollster Al Quinlan of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research told reporters on a conference call Feb. 15.

The polling data revealed that 68 percent of Michigan residents support the EPA’s role in regulating greenhouse gas emissions, include almost six in 10 self-identified Republicans and two-thirds of independents.

Less than one in five Michigan voters registered “strong opposition” to the EPA’s role.

Significantly, when provided with some of the specific language in the public debate used by Republicans and Democrats over the EPA’s role, Michigan residents showed increased support for the EPA.

For example, Michigan voters were asked about their level of support for the following argument: “The American people rejected Nancy Pelosi’s cap-and-trade plan, but now the Obama administration is trying to impose a similar plan through the EPA. Their plan would impose more burdensome regulations that will cost American businesses hundreds of billion dollars, lead to higher gas and electricity prices for consumers and put thousands of American jobs at risk. Congress should rein in the EPA and stop this harmful and excessive new bureaucracy.”

When presented with this statement, obviously lifted from the rhetoric of Republican politicians and Republican-oriented media personalities, support for the EPA’s role actually increased. The biggest shift in favor came from Republicans, suggesting thin support for Republican rhetoric even in its base.

“Americans feel strongly that there’s the need for accountability when it comes to greenhouse gases,” Quinlan explained. “They want somebody to hold companies accountable for what they’re putting into the air.”

Years of polling and research shows systematically that the American public firmly believes that “this is an appropriate role for the government to play,” he added. “We want them to keep an eye on corporations and what they are doing and making sure they are not polluting beyond a certain limit.”

In addition, Americans want scientists and the EPA taking on this job of regulating air pollution, not politicians in Congress. “The experts, the scientists are the ones who can best make the decisions about how to curb pollution and how to keep these companies accountable,” he said.

The strength of public opinion on this issue comes as the Obama administration is preparing to release new guidelines regulating greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming. Michigan attitudes appear to reflect the general opinion shared by most Americans, according to other polling data released earlier this month.

Image courtesy Environmental Protection Agency


Joel Wendland-Liu
Joel Wendland-Liu

Joel Wendland-Liu teaches courses on diversity, intercultural competence, migration, and civil rights at Grand Valley State University in West Michigan. He is the author of The Collectivity of Life: Spaces of Social Mobility and the Individualism Myth, and a former editor of Political Affairs.