As the Legislature this year considers whether to change the state's landmark California Environmental Quality Act, a new poll finds Californians are almost equally divided on the value of strict environmental laws.
A poll by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California, released late Wednesday, asked 1,703 Californians which statement most closely reflected their view: "Stricter environmental laws and regulations in California cost too many jobs and hurt the economy," or, "Stricter environmental laws and regulations in California are worth the cost."
Forty-nine percent of all adults said the laws are worth the cost, and 45 percent said they hurt the economy. Among likely voters, however, the results were nearly reversed, with 49 percent saying they hurt the economy and 46 percent saying they are worth the cost.
Responses were largely split along party lines, with 73 percent of Republicans saying stricter environmental laws hurt the economy, while 62 percent of Democrats and 56 percent of independents said they are worth the cost.
However, 66 percent of likely voters said they think the government should regulate the release of greenhouse gases from power plants, cars and other sources. Fifty-nine percent said they favor new federal policies to address climate change.
In other findings, the survey found a majority of Californians, who once supported a proposed $11 billion water bond and construction of high-speed rail now projected to cost $68 billion, now oppose those projects unless their costs are reduced.
Support for the water bond dropped to 42 percent in March 2013 from 51 percent a year earlier. The poll confirmed the wisdom of those in the Legislature who have been seeking to rework the bond to reduce its costs, as support among likely voters rose to 55 percent when they were asked whether they would vote for a water bond with a lower price tag.
Similarly, 43 percent of likely voters said they support the high-speed rail project when told of its estimated cost, but overall support rises to 55 percent if the cost could be reduced. Fifty-nine percent say high-speed rail is important to California's quality of life and economic vitality.
On federal issues, the poll found 70 percent of likely voters support raising the hourly minimum wage from $7.25 to $9, as President Barack Obama has proposed; 59 percent favor a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants; and 67 percent support creation of a government database to track all gun sales.
The poll surveyed 1,703 adults, including 1,138 likely voters, through landline and cellphone interviews conducted March 5-12. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.8 percent among adults and plus or minus 4.6 percent among the smaller sample of likely voters.
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