A new bipartisan national survey of likely 2012 voters finds American voters at odds with those in Congress pushing to strip the Environmental Protection Agency of its authority to update air pollution standards, including Carbon Dioxide.

An overwhelming bipartisan majority wants the EPA to set stricter limits on air pollution, with about three-quarters of voters backing tougher standards on Mercury, smog and Carbon Dioxide as well as higher fuel efficiency standards for heavy duty trucks. 

More important, voters explicitly reject Congressional efforts to stop the EPA from updating these standards both as a whole and in a debate specific to Carbon Dioxide standards. After a balanced debate on the issue, with language based on that recently used by supporters of Congressional action, a two-to-one majority opposes Congressional action to stop the EPA. This includes a vast majority of independents who, on this issue, look much more like Democrats than Republicans.

Read the full memographs, and results.

Key Findings

Voters overwhelmingly support the EPA updating Clean Air Act standards. 69 percent of voters think the EPA should update CAA standards with stricter limits on air pollution. Moreover, on specific elements of the CAA:

  • 79 percent support stricter limits on Mercury.
  • 77 percent support stricter limits on smog.
  • 77 percent support stricter limits on Carbon Dioxide.
  • 74 percent support tougher fuel efficiency standards on heavy duty trucks.

Voters overwhelmingly oppose Congressional action that impedes EPA from updating clean air standards. 68 percent say that Congress should NOT stop the EPA from updating the four standards listed above. When asked specifically about updating standards for Carbon Dioxide, 64 percent say that Congress should NOT stop the EPA. 

  • After hearing a balanced debate on the issue, with messages based on the actual language used by opponents and supporters of the EPA, strong majorities continue to oppose Congressional action to stop the EPA. 63 percent oppose Congressional action on all four standards while 60 percent oppose Congressional action when the debate centers specifically on Carbon Dioxide. Independents oppose Congressional action by a two-to-one margin in both debates.

Voters trust EPA more than Congress to set clean air standards. Even after hearing strong arguments from opponents of the EPA, EPA supporters win every element of this debate. Taken as a whole, the survey clearly indicates that voters strongly trust the EPA to deal with clean air standards more than Congress. 

  • Congress is significantly less popular than either the EPA or the Clean Air Act.
  • Only 18 percent of voters think the EPA is exceeding its legal mandate.
  • A bipartisan 69 percent majority believes that EPA scientists, rather than Congress, should set pollution standards. This is despite opposing language arguing that our elected representatives in Congress would do a better job than “unelected bureaucrats at the EPA.”
  • By a nearly 20-point margin, voters believe that updated EPA standards will boost, rather than harm, job creation.


Memo based on a national survey of 1021 likely 2012 voters conducted for theAmerican Lung Association by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and Ayres, McHenry & Associates, February 7-14, 2011. Margin of error for the full sample is 3.1%. For half samples it is 4.4%.

Sources: Michael Bocian and Andrew Baumann, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and Jon McHenry and Dan Judy, Ayres McHenry & Associates

Client: American Lung Association