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The Greening of California's Republicans?

One finding from a new statewide survey, "Californians and the Environment," suggests that the environment is becoming a more bipartisan issue, but that finding is still subject to interpretation. What isn't is the top environmental issue: water.
July 29, 2018, 1pm PDT | Irvin Dawid
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Andrew Zarivny

"In a state with a partisan split that’s broad and growing wider, environmental issues provide a surprising bridge between Democrats and Republicans, a new poll by the Public Policy Institute of California [PPIC] indicates, reports John Wildermuth for the San Francisco Chronicle on July 25. 

On a variety of California environmental issues, a solid percentage of Republicans show they’re willing to break with President Trump and his environmental policies on subjects like water policy and global warming, said Mark Baldassare, the institute’s CEO and president as well as director of the poll [and former professor of urban and regional planning at the University of California, Irvine.]

“The environment is a very personal thing in California,” Baldassare said. “Air pollution, drought, water quality and wildfires are not Republican versus Democrat issues.”

"Likely voters see drought and water supply as the top environmental issue facing the state, followed by air pollution," notes the survey summary

As evidence of increasing support by Republicans for environmental issues, Wildermuth cites the poll's findings on Proposition 3an $8.9 billion bond on the November ballot for a range of water projects, that has "support from 58 percent of California’s likely voters, with 25 percent opposed and 17 percent undecided. But while 72 percent of Democrats surveyed back the bond measure, what’s striking is that Republicans, despite a well-documented aversion to new spending, also support the spending, 43 percent to 38 percent."

Prop. 3 may deal with watershed conservation, but is it really an environmental measure from a political perspective? After all, the Sierra Club opposes [pdf] the measure, calling it "a fiscally irresponsible approach to California's water problems.

A large portion of the bond measure would assist farmers in the San Joaquin Valley, whose abundant use of groundwater is causing a major subsidence problem. Repairing the Friant-Kern Canal that largely delivers irrigation water to 15 water and irrigation districts would receive $350 million, with the Friant area receiving another $400 million in watershed projects.

Notwithstanding the political considerations in the water bond initiative, the PPIC "survey shows just how deeply environmental concerns are ingrained in Californians, regardless of party or ethnicity, Baldassare said.

“Many Republicans want stronger environmental protection and believe in climate change,” he said. “They’re concerned about air pollution and auto emissions.”

Up to a point, adds Wildermuth. "That doesn’t mean California Republicans are lining up to join the Sierra Club. While 82 percent of Democrats and 66 percent of independents surveyed were opposed to allowing more oil drilling off the California coast, 54 percent of GOP adults were in favor of it."

It should be noted that opposition to offshore drilling is bipartisan in states such as New Jersey and Florida.

The survey also found that black and Latino voters placed greater priority on climate change and air pollution than the state's white voters.

Dan Morain also writes on the PPIC survey and Prop. 3 for CALmatters.

Full Story:
Published on Wednesday, July 25, 2018 in San Francisco Chronicle
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