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Voters Strongly Support Government Regulation to Protect Climate, Health, and Future Generations

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A poll conducted by the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) and Data for Progress in January 2021 finds broad public support for a progressive climate agenda that relies on regulatory action, even if it means slower economic growth. It also shows that the public opposes the process the government currently uses to assess the costs and benefits of regulations because it undervalues clean air, safe water, and a healthy climate. Poll results and analysis are available below.

Building a Progressive Regulatory Agenda

Despite common political narratives that cast regulations in negative terms, we find that likely voters recognize regulations as a legitimate policy tool and want more assertive uses of them. Specifically, likely voters across party lines strongly support using regulations to limit pollution and tackle climate change.

These results show that the American public expects agencies to fully account for climate and other environmental impacts when designing new regulations. These results demonstrate public support for reforming the process for evaluating regulations, generally referred to as cost-benefit analysis, to advance progressive climate policy efforts.

The Biden-Harris administration has signaled that reforming this process is a top priority. On Day One, President Joe Biden directed relevant officials to overhaul the practice to better account for the wide range of benefits that regulations produce. These include protections for future generations and other benefits that are difficult to predict or that can’t be easily converted into dollars and cents, such as clean air and water and the health and safety of future generations.

Read the memo.

Reclaiming Regulation

For nearly 40 years, the federal government has used a peculiar form of cost-benefit analysis to evaluate new regulations. Despite its influential role, little is known about how well this approach reflects the values of the country more broadly. Until now.

Our poll finds that this cost-benefit analysis regime is grossly out of sync with American values. Likely voters across the ideological spectrum broadly disapprove of current techniques for performing cost-benefit analysis, calling into question its usefulness and legitimacy as a policy tool.

Fortunately, the Biden-Harris administration is considering overhauling these techniques as part of a broader regulatory reform effort. In its memo issued on Day One, the administration directs relevant officials to explore options for redesigning regulatory analysis so it can better account for a wider range of benefits that the current approach either undervalues or disregards.

Our poll suggests that this reform effort would enjoy broad public support. If done well, it could yield better regulatory outcomes and greater legitimacy in regulatory decisionmaking.

Read the memo.

Related Op-eds

CPR Board Member Amy Sinden in The Philadelphia Inquirer, "Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon Should Hold Biden’s Feet to the Fire on Regulatory Agenda"

CPR Board Member Sidney Shapiro in The Hill, "Attention, lawmakers — regulation is more popular than you think"

CPR Senior Policy Analyst James Goodwin and CPR Board Member Sidney Shapiro in The Regulatory Review, "To Democratize Regulation, Reform Regulatory Analysis"

Climate Justice Responsive Government Air Climate Defending Safeguards Environmental Justice Water