Despite mounting political divisions over the issue, nearly two-thirds of Californians continue to consider global warming a serious threat that needs to be addressed and they still strongly back a 2006 state law aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new Field Poll .
The poll shows that 64 percent of California voters believe there is sufficient evidence of global warming to justify action, and 70 percent are behind the law requiring the state to reduce the emissions to 1990 levels over the next decade.
At the same time, the poll reveals that overall voter concern about global warming has diminished since Field posed the same questions in 2007, when 76 percent of Californians respondedthat global warming required either "immediate action" or "some action."
The shifting sentiment appears connected to the roiling, partisan debate that has unfolded in recent years over climate change and its perceived threat to the environment. The Field Poll found Republicans in particular were much less inclined now than in 2007 to believe that action is needed 56 percent then, compared with 37 percent now.
Similarly, there is less support for AB 32, the greenhouse gas emissions law, than in 2007. But support appears to be bouncing back from a dip in 2010, when the economy was still struggling and an effort to derail the law failed at the ballot box. In the 2007 poll, 79 percent of the state's voters backed AB 32, pushedthrough the year before by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican who made it a legislative priority.
Mark DiCamillo, the Field Poll 's director, said the more recent surge in support for the law is most likely related to the improving economy.
Overall, the poll found California voters do not think much of either the state or federal government's response to climate change. Sixty-two percent of the state's voters disapprove of the federal government's handling of the issue, while nearly half consider the state's response inadequate.
The poll, which surveyed 834 registered voters, was taken Feb. 5-21. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
Kathryn Phillips, executive director of the Sierra Club in California, said she was pleased with the solid support among Californians for taking action on global warming.
She noted that President Barack Obama of late has raised the issue "overtly" and "that helps."
"Also, we have been unfortunately seeing some real weather impacts that are linked to climate change," she said, alluding to Superstorm Sandy and the severe drought hitting Midwestern and Plains states.
Field Poll respondent Linda Harris, a registered DemocratCopyright 2012 San Jose Mercury News. All rights reserved.