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Tale of Two Polls: The Impossible Task of Gauging Public Support for a Climate Bill

So, what is the American public's appetite for legislation that would place limits on greenhouse gas emissions? On the heels of the international climate talks in Copenhagen -- a summit that has received armloads of criticism for its lack of an agreement -- the prospects of passing climate-change legislation seem dimmer than ever.

And two polls released this week -- each with vastly different results, The Hill's blog noted -- make it even more difficult to gauge public opinion on climate change and what should be done -- if anything -- about it.

A National Small Business Survey, conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling Research, found 40 percent of 750 managers and business owners surveyed, believe improving the economy by protecting jobs and boosting employment should be a top priority of Congress. The percent who believe protecting the environment by reducing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions is a top priority? A big fat zero.

Compare that to results of a National Wildlife Federation poll, conducted by the Benenson Strategy Group, 56 percent of respondents (1,000 registered voters were surveyed) believe the U.S. should take the lead on global warming, regardless of what other countries do. The same poll found 82 percent support the U.S. government increasing investment in clean energy resources; and 67 percent support the U.S. government limiting carbon pollution and other gases that may cause global warming.

So, where to now? The poll results -- when looked at together -- do not provide Congress with a clear path. Small business owners and managers are clearly worried about job loss under a government-legislated system that would place limits on emissions. While, respondents of the National Wildlife Federation poll want to see investment in clean energy sources.

The tripartisan compromise climate and energy bill -- developed by Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass.; Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; and Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn. -- may be their best bet at securing public support. A vague framework of the bill released earlier this month calls for investment in clean energy, expanded offshore drilling and nuclear power as well as a greenhouse gas emissions cut of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.

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