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September 27, 2012

Survey: The tiny percentage of remaining undecided voters care about air quality, energy issues

Undecided voters in eight battleground states have distinctive views about clean air and clean energy, according to a poll released Thursday.

Those voters are strongly supportive of air pollution standards for mercury and higher mileage standards for vehicles, said Tom Jensen, director of North Carolina's Public Policy Polling. As a result, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney could have serious trouble appealing to the small sliver of or undecided voters who care about environmental issues, he said.

"Romney's views are at odds with the very centrist voters he needs," Jensen said.

He points to results of the poll showing 60 percent of likely voters say they'd be likely to support a candidate who wants to reduce mercury emissions from power plants. Of those, 28 percent they would not. Thirteen percent are undecided.

Among undecided voters, the numbers are similar: 59 percent say they'd support a candidate who wants to cut emissions; 31 would not. Nine percent are undecided.

The poll was conducted in Florida, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin between Sept. 14 and 20. It surveyed 22,412 likely voters, with a margin of error of +/-0.7 percent,

It was conducted for the NRDC Action Fund, the political affiliate of the National Resources Defense Council that supports environmentally friendly candidates. Full poll results.

The views of the voters they surveyed have been shaped in part by what the candidates have said -- or not said -- about climate change and pollution on the campaign trail. And they could play a major role in re-electing President Barack Obama, environmentalists said, regardless of what they describe as millions of dollars in spending by energy interests that back Romney. Five out of seven commercials in some swing states are based on energy issues, Jensen said.

"Voters are not lining up to cast their ballots for dirty energy candidates," said NRDC Action Fund director Heather Taylor-Miesle.

Their poll came the same day as a separate group of environmentalists launched ClimateSilence.org, which asks voters to sign a petition asking Obama and Romney to explain how they will address climate change if elected. The website is part of a campaign by Forecast the Facts and Friends of the Earth Action to address what they're calling "climate silence."

Little has been said on the campaign trail by either candidate, although both men mentioned climate change during their acceptance speeches at their respective political conventions.

"Climate change is not a hoax," Obama said during his speech, an assertion that brought Democratic National Convention delegates to their feet, as he pledged to continue approaching energy policy in a way he said would "continue to reduce the carbon pollution that is heating our planet."

It was in response to Romney, who had quipped in his own acceptance speech in Tampa, Fla., that Obama "promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet."

"The next president will face a series of critical decisions about the energy future of a country already being ravaged by poisoned weather," said Brad Johnson, campaign manager of Forecast the Facts. "The candidate who speaks out on the facts of climate change will reap the political rewards of brave and forthright leadership."


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"Planet Washington" covers politics and government. It is written by journalists in McClatchy's Washington Bureau.

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