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Poll: Mass. Backs Policies To Combat Global Warming, But It Remains A 2nd-Tier Issue

Massachusetts voters support a number of policies to combat global warming, a MassINC poll finds, though it remains a second-tier issue in voters' minds, far behind the economy, education and health care.

Survey respondents were offered 12 different policy suggestions aimed at battling climate change, including stricter energy efficiency standards and improving the state's public transportation network, and majorities said they "strongly support" or "somewhat support" all 12 ideas.

"Even the lowest-rated option, instituting a revenue-neutral carbon tax, is supported by 56 percent and strongly supported by a quarter of residents," the poll report said.

Further, most in Massachusetts are amenable to opening their wallets some to fight global warming. Seventy-two percent of respondents said they are willing to pay an extra $5 a month on their utility bill if it meant that "greenhouse gases were significantly reduced."

Though released Wednesday, the live telephone survey of 1,004 registered Massachusetts voters was conducted in September — before the winter's record-breaking snowfall — by The MassINC Polling Group for the independent think tank MassINC. It has a margin of error of 3.1 percent.

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The share of voters who believe climate change should be a "high priority" for state government has risen in recent years, but it remains a second-tier issue for the public, lagging the economy, education and health care.

Forty-one percent of survey respondents said global warming should be a high priority for state government. That's up from 32 percent in 2011.

But in comparison, 83 percent of Massachusetts voters in the poll conducted in September said that jobs and the economy should be a high priority. A similar 83 percent of respondents said the same about education, and 77 percent said health care should be a high priority.

On the survey's main findings, that voters support efforts to combat global warming despite its status as a second-tier issue, Steve Koczela, president of The MassINC Polling Group, said in a release accompanying the survey that, “People are willing to pay for policies that attack the problem, even though it’s not top of mind for most."

Koczela added in the release: "There appears to be little to no political downside for leaders who want to take action on this issue, even including some fairly aggressive policy responses."

About two-thirds of respondents said they think climate change is real and at least partially man-made. And nearly three-quarters of respondents said Massachusetts is likely to experience more powerful storms, sea level rise and coastal flooding as a result of global warming.

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Benjamin Swasey Twitter Digital Manager
Ben is WBUR's digital news manager.

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