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Poll: Most Floridians favor action on global warming

By JENNIFER LIBERTO
Published May 14, 2007


Almost three of four Floridians think state lawmakers should take immediate steps to combat global warming.

In a St. Petersburg Times/Bay News 9 poll, 71 percent of those polled said they support immediate legislative action to cut green house gas emissions.

More than half - 54 percent - said they believe global warming has contributed to an increase in the number and severity of hurricanes over the past few years.

Pollster Kellyanne Conway cautioned that the numbers might be inflated given the trendiness of global warming as a political issue, but she said it appears global warming has become a significant issue in Florida.

"It's their way of asking Tallahassee to get Mother Nature out of her bad mood, " said Conway of the Polling Co. of Washington, D.C.

Democrats and independents most strongly favored government action to curb greenhouse gases, with 81 percent of Democrats and 83 percent of independents agreeing, according to the poll. About 54 percent of Republicans supported government action.

Also, younger people, those 18 to 34, supported government intervention to cut emissions more strongly than those older than 65.

Scientists believe that the burning of fossil fuel has produced atmospheric gases that trap heat near the earth's surface, which in turn warms oceans. Some believe that the warmer oceans are spawning more frequent and stronger hurricanes.

Florida has lagged behind other states in coming up with ways to cut greenhouse gasses. This year, the Legislature took a step in that direction by passing a bill that creates a task force focused on figuring out how to structure future energy policy. The bill also orders the Public Service Commission to recommend power companies produce some electricity using renewable fuels.

It also gave $62-million for alternative energy programs, including one that converts crops into fuel.

Energy policy is also expected to emerge as presidential campaign issue in Florida, as 67 percent of those polled said energy policy is a "very important" presidential campaign discussion.

"Public awareness and attitudes about energy policy and global warming are growing at an increasing amount on the daily basis, " said Susan Glickman with Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental nonprofit.

Some who took part in the poll were interviewed by Times reporters, and nearly all said they believe in state action on warming.

"I have grandchildren, and if we don't do something soon there won't be anything left, " said Marcia Burnham, 70, a retiree and registered independent in St. Petersburg. "They need to appropriate more money toward development (of new technology)."

Donald Brown, a 65-year-old Republican retiree from Wildwood, said he doesn't believe that human activity is the sole or even main cause of global warming, but he also agrees that emissions should be cut.

"I've thought about a lot of pros and cons about it, and any cut in emissions is good, whether it affects global warming or not, " Brown said.

The survey was conducted by Schroth, Eldon & Associates, which traditionally works with Democratic candidates, and the Polling Co., which mostly does Republican polling. They spoke to 901 Floridians from May 6 to May 9. The margin of error for statewide figures is 3.5 percentage points.