There’s No Better Alternative Than Alternative

There were several sobering findings in the NPR poll done by POS and GQR (neither NPR nor GQR are responsible for any of the conclusions in this posting).  One of which is that the GOP counter message on cap and trade/energy got spanked by the Democrat message by 13 points, including seven on intensity.

(I know what you are thinking — “Glen, health care is so now, while cap and trade is a few months ago — why focus on it now?”  Well, the issue is going to be part of the 2010 debate, and the data could not be clearer on what Republicans need to make sure to include in our messaging!)

Stan Greenberg wrote the Democrat message on energy, and I wrote the GOP response.  I intentionally left any GOP message on alternative fuels out, because I wanted to see how a message that simply refuted the Dem policy would do.  The answer?  Not well, as these results show:

Q.30 As you may have heard, the U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a major energy bill. I am going to read you two statements about that bill. After I read these statements, please tell me which one comes closer to your own view, even if neither is exactly right.

Democrats say for too long we’ve relied on the same old, dirty energy sources. This bill will get America running on clean energy by rewarding companies that produce alternative energy and requiring companies to reduce their pollution. It will require more of our energy to come from alternative sources like wind and solar and it uses America’s technological know-how to recharge our economy with new industries, creating 1.7 million new jobs while reducing our dependence on foreign oil and unstable parts of the world. It will cost families less than 15 dollars a month.


Republicans say this cap and trade bill is a $2,000 per year hidden tax on average families. It puts a tax on companies that all Americans will end up paying every time they drive, flip on a light switch, or cool their house. Rather than help create new jobs, this hidden tax will make it even more difficult for American manufacturing businesses to compete, and will send jobs to countries like China and India who refuse to play by the same rules. This new tax hits those who can least afford it — families and small businesses struggling to survive the recession.


Dem statement strongly ……………………………………………… 39

Dem statement not strongly ………………………………………… 14

Rep statement not strongly ………………………………………….. 8

Rep statement strongly ………………………………………………. 32

Total Dem statement………………………………………………… 53

Total Rep statement …………………………………………………. 40

It’s crystal clear that a GOP energy message which does not include the need to expand and grow alternative fuels is lacking a key component.  Every time over the past two years that I have tested a GOP message that doesn’t include alternative energy, it is a stone cold loser.  Every time that GOP message includes an alternative energy component, it does significantly better.  More oil, less taxes is not enough.

GOP campaigns have to do more than pay lip service to alternative energy.  It has to be a key component of any plan for BOTH the energy solutions to the challenges we face, AND the environmental solutions to the challenges we face in this country.  Do NOT give alternative energy short shrift — there is zero evidence that it’s a good idea to do so.  This is not simply one poll result — these findings are consistent and proven.

POSTSCRIPT: Because of smart questions/comments I received on Facebook, I’ve added a bit to this post.

First, the data breaks down as as 46% Dem message/42% GOP message among Independents.  Which is significantly CLOSER than the overall result.  That discrepancy is because Dems are more unified on this issue than GOPers.  Dem voters opt for the Dem message 85%-10%, while GOPers stick with the GOP message just 72%-22%.  That, and, as I’ve noted many times before, there are now more Dems than GOPers in the country on party ID.

The other point to clarify is not that Republicans should be for this bill (that’s up to individual candidates based on their values and their districts to decide.  It’s that Republicans can’t just be AGAINST this, they also have to have an alternative.  And, based on all the data I’ve seen this year, the “All of the Above” approach still resonates VERY well.  But, we have to avoid the mistake of focusing just on more oil/coal, and need to highlight options for green, alternative energy.  Candidates opposed to that point of view simply because Dems are for it would be making a significant error in both policy AND politics.

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