Nearly 60 percent of likely voters think fossil fuel companies “should be held responsible and pay damages for their deception and the harms caused by climate change,” according to a poll released Tuesday by Data for Progress.
In the survey, which was conducted for the climate newsletter HEATED, Data For Progress asked 1,303 likely voters about their support for climate change-related lawsuits.
“Perhaps the most surprising part about today’s poll is that support for oil company accountability cuts across party lines,” wrote Emily Atkin, author and founder of HEATED.
“Forty-six percent of Republicans support holding oil companies responsible for climate impacts and science deception, while 38 percent oppose it,” Atkin wrote, adding that 61 percent of Republicans under the age of 45 support holding fossil fuel companies accountable, compared to 39 percent of those over 45.
The survey was prompted by lawsuits recently filed by the attorneys general of Minnesota and Washington D.C. against Exxon, three Koch Industries entities and the American Petroleum Institute and ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron, and Shell respectively. Both suits accuse the oil giants of deceiving consumers about climate change risks and engaging in a coordinated decades-long campaign to mislead the public.
Results also show that 72 percent of Democratic voters and 55 percent of Independent and third-party voters support the suits.
Climate change-related lawsuits have also been filed by the attorneys general in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, as well as by nearly two dozen municipalities across the country. All are seeking compensation to force the companies to help pay for the costs of climate change-related impacts.
Presidential hopeful Joe Biden on Tuesday reaffirmed his commitment to hold polluters accountable. He specifically prioritized it, along with other initiatives to address environmental justice issues, in the$2 trillion plan to tackle climate change his campaign released.
Biden’s administration will “establish a new Environmental and Climate Justice Division within the Justice Department, as proposed by Governor Inslee, to complement the work of the Environment and Natural Resources Division and hold polluters accountable,” according to the plan, which was posted on his campaign website.
Biden has previously pledged that his administration will “hold corporations and executives personally liable for pollution.”
“Although there is widespread support for climate lawsuits against fossil fuel companies, Data for Progress’s poll also shows that too many people still have no idea what these lawsuits even are,” Atkin wrote, adding that 17 percent of likely voters didn’t have enough information to respond.
As the public becomes more aware of the extent of the disinformation and enormity of the deception campaigns led by the fossil fuel industry, Atkin said she anticipates its support for the suits will grow.