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Keller @ Large: Poll Shows Massachusetts Residents Don't Prioritize Climate Change Over Other Issues

BOSTON (CBS) -- Crowds of people clamor for it at rallies and protests. A bipartisan array of local politicians support it. So it should be clear sledding ahead for sweeping action to deal with the effects of climate change here in Massachusetts.

But is it? A new Boston Globe/MassINC poll sponsored by the Barr Foundation asked respondents to rank six issues in order of priority. Climate change came in sixth, well behind health care, education, jobs and the economy.

"Climate's still a very big deal to people, but if you ask them to compare it to some of other issues that are literally right there in front of their face, I'm not surprised that in the moment there are some other things they're concerned about," said Gov. Charlie Baker in a live-streamed interview with the Globe.

(WBZ-TV Graphic)

But despite all the warnings about climate change impact and a years-long push to change energy habits here, the poll shows nearly half of us say we won't pay to have energy-efficient solar panels or electric heat pumps installed in our homes. And when it comes to getting to work, 84 percent of us say we still drive gas-powered vehicles, while less than ten percent drive cleaner alternatives despite years of hype.

"This is a bit of a wake-up call, to be honest," says Rich Parr, research director for MassINC. It shows climate change activists have their work cut out for them, and suggests politicians may have to risk getting out in front of their constituents. "Knowing what we know about the climate and about what science is telling us, these are things that probably need to get done regardless of whether public opinion is with it," he says.

No doubt, the numbers reflect the economic impact of the pandemic and recent inflation. Even among people who say they believe in climate change and want to help deal with it, there's a reluctance to spend money on things like heat pumps and electric cars. And the poll finds more financial assistance through rebates and tax credits would help move the needle.

But Baker put it well when he noted that when people have a host of problems right up in their grills, it's hard to focus on what's down the road a piece.

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