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Poll Finds Environment a Major Issue for California Voters

Most voters in California care about the environment and want the same from their next governor, according to the results of a new survey released Wednesday that asked voters how they feel about environmental issues.

(CN) – Most voters in California care about the environment and want the same from their next governor, according to the results of a new survey released Wednesday that asked voters how they feel about environmental issues.

This November, voters in the Golden State will choose their next governor and a majority, 87 percent, polled in a new survey from the Public Policy Institute of California are concerned about the state’s environment and how Democrat Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom or Republican businessman John Cox will tackle those issues.

More than half polled in the survey, 56 percent, say a candidate’s environmental positions are “very important” if they want to get the vote, according to the PPIC. That’s up from 44 percent in 2006 when likely voters were asked the same question. Thirty-one percent of those polled in 2018 say a candidate’s environmental positions are “somewhat important.”

Across the partisan divide, those priorities differ greatly, with 67 percent of likely Democratic voters saying their candidates’ environmental policies are very important, but only a third of Republican voters said they felt the same way.

Newsom has said he would put California on the path to renewable energy if elected and eliminate diesel pollution by 2030, while Cox called California’s current environmental regulations “crushing” for business owners and said people are discouraged by all the regulations.

The Republican candidate said he would reduce and repeal longtime environmental laws, including the California Environmental Quality Act, CEQA, that requires state and local municipalities to be aware of the environmental impacts when issuing permits or approving projects.

Newsom leads Cox by 24 points in the gubernatorial race among likely voters, according to the poll.

The survey comes on the heels of the Trump administration hinting that California’s environmental regulations will be challenged in the coming weeks, as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s acting head, Andrew Wheeler, told a group of reporters that there should be one standard for all states when it comes to fuel efficiency standards, according to Time magazine.

But most likely voters want stricter fuel emission standards with their cars in California, according to the PPIC survey. Two-thirds favor a state law to drop emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels in the next 20 years.

A majority of those polled say they are opposed to offshore drilling, with two-thirds saying they oppose any new drilling off the California coast. Most residents – those who live near the ocean, 71 percent, and those who live inland, 59 percent – oppose more drilling. Across party lines the sentiment is similar, with 82 percent of Democrats taking a harsher view of new drilling compared to 54 percent of Republicans.

Likely voters also said they are concerned about the availability of water in California and 58 percent said they would support an $8.9 billion water bond that will be on the November ballot.

While memories of severe drought effects linger, those who are concerned about water supply and drought conditions has decreased since 2016, when 38 percent of adult and 43 percent of likely voters said it was one of the most important environmental issues at the time.  Today, just 19 percent of adults and 24 percent of likely voters are tepid about drought conditions in the Golden State.

And despite the state's Democratic brass opting to endorse current state Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, in the U.S. Senate race, those polled say they'll pull the lever to give Sen. Dianne Feinstein a fifth full term by a nearly 2-1 margin. Most respondents also say Feinstein is more likely to push back against the Trump administration, something 55 percent of likely voters say they want to happen.

The poll of 1,711 California adult residents was taken July 8-17 and has a sampling error of plus or minus 3.4 percent.

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