African-Americans Fear Climate Change Bill Will Hurt Economy, Households, Poll Shows

By Melanie Hunter-Omar | June 24, 2009 | 3:34 PM EDT

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.)

( – A new survey shows most African-Americans are against the Waxman-Markey climate change bill, which includes a cap-and-trade program aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, because of its potential impact on the economy and African-American households.
More than one in three adults surveyed were against reducing greenhouse gas emissions if that meant an increase in prices and unemployment.
"If concern about a Waxman-Markey-style climate change bill is running this high among group of predominantly Obama voters, it's bound to be much higher among the general population," said David A. Ridenour, vice president of The National Center for Public Policy Research, who directs the group's Center for Public Opinion Policy Center, which issued the poll. 
The bill, sponsored by House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Energy and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Edward Markey (D-Mass.), would allow the government to set a cap on the amount of greenhouse gases that a company could emit.
The poll found that 76 percent of African-Americans think that economic recovery should be the top priority, even if it means climate change is put on the backburner.

Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) (AP Photo)

When asked if federal action to curb greenhouse gas emissions could increase unemployment, 38 percent said they thought African-Americans would proportionately lose more jobs while 49 percent believed greenhouse gas emission reduction efforts by the federal government would hit all races equally.
Only 11 percent of respondents were willing to pay $100 more a year for electricity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and the numbers dropped to six, four and one percent when respondents were asked to pay an extra $200, $300, or $600 for electricity a year.
Only 15 percent of respondents were willing to pay $100 more for gas due to greenhouse gas legislation, and the numbers dropped to five, three, and four percent if gas prices increased by $2, $3, or $4 a gallon.
"African-Americans are unwilling to pay even a cent more for gas and electricity to reduce greenhouse emissions. Many are concerned that the costs of the regulations will fall disproportionately on them. And an overwhelming majority of African-Americans prefer to put economic recovery before action on climate change,” said Ridenour.
“All this spells a bad climate for climate change legislation. If Speaker Pelosi ignores these signs of discontent within her party's base, she does so at her own peril," he added. "It's also significant that the poll shows that support for the kind of climate legislation backed by the Democratic leadership is very weak in the central states."
"As the overwhelming majority of the people we polled are self-identified Democrats and Obama voters, one would expect them to largely agree with the Democratic leadership on this high-profile issue, but they don't. This may in part be why Speaker Nancy Pelosi has run into strong resistance to the Waxman-Markey bill from Democratic Congressmen representing the central states," Ridenour added.
The poll was conducted by Wilson Research Strategies from a sample of 800 African-American adults including 640 self-identified Democrats or 80 percent and 32 Republicans or four percent. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percent.