Most Americans oppose President Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, with a majority saying the move will damage the United States' global leadership, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
Opposition to Trump's decision outpaces support for it by a roughly 2 to 1 margin, with 59 percent opposing the move and 28 percent in support. The reactions also break down sharply among partisan lines, though Republicans are not as united in support of the withdrawal as Democrats are in opposition of it. A 67 percent majority of Republicans support Trump's action, but that drops to 22 percent among political independents and 8 percent of Democrats. Just over 6 in 10 independents and 8 in 10 Democrats oppose Trump's action.
The survey also finds broad skepticism toward Trump's argument that leaving the Paris agreement will benefit the U.S. economy. While 32 percent of respondents say his action will help the nation's economy, 42 percent think it will hurt and 20 percent say it will make no difference. On a separate question, slightly more people surveyed say that exiting the climate accord will cost jobs, such as those in renewable energy, than it will create jobs in the coal, oil and gas sectors.
Trump's decision to exit the landmark Paris climate agreement — a pact signed by more than 190 countries around the world — faced widespread criticism last week from U.S. allies, major companies and mayors of numerous U.S. cities, all of whom underscored their commitment to what they called the necessary task of combating climate change. Trump argued that the nonbinding agreement imposed "draconian financial and economic burdens on our country," and predicted it would cost millions of jobs and trillions of dollars to the U.S. economy — a stance critics quickly noted did not consider the health benefits from cutting emissions and the potential economic benefits of investments in clean energy.
On Sunday, EPA director Scott Pruitt said the Paris agreement was "a bad deal for this country" in an interview with NBC's Meet The Press. "It's clear that the demerits, the efficacy both in environmental outcomes as well as the cost to us from a jobs perspective was a bad deal for this country," Pruitt said, arguing the U.S. has already accomplished a great deal in reducing its carbon footprint.
The Paris deal essentially represented a promise by countries to hold the planet's warming to "well below" 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and to aspire to a 1.5 degree limit if possible, in an effort to stave off the worst effects of global warming. Under the deal, countries would set their own targets - and their own approaches - for reducing their emissions, with the aim of increasing the ambition of their targets over time. The United States, for instance, had agreed to cut greenhouse gases by 26 percent to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.
"Some day we may see this as the moment when we decided to save our planet," President Obama said last September, as he and Chinese President Xi Jinping formally joined the Paris climate accord, a move that compelled other countries to follow suit and led toward the landmark deal officially entering into force that fall. He added at the time, "History will judge today's efforts as pivotal."
With Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement, the United States is abandoning its role as a global leader in the fight against climate change, and instead joining only two other countries not participating in the accord: Syria, which is in mired in civil war, and Nicaragua, which refused to join because its leaders did not believe the Paris deal went far enough to combat global warming.
Beyond economic concerns, the Post-ABC poll finds 55 percent saying Trump's decision will hurt U.S. leadership in the world, while 18 percent think it will help. Another 23 percent expect no impact. Even supporters of Trump's action expressed mixed views on this question, with 48 percent saying Trump's action will boost U.S. leadership, while 48 percent think it will make no difference or will harm the nation's standing. Among those who oppose Trump's decision, 77 percent say it will hurt American leadership.
Republicans are largely optimistic about the economic benefits of leaving the climate agreement, with more than three-quarters saying Trump's decision will help the economy, and 73 percent saying it will create more jobs like those in traditional energy than cost jobs in the renewable energy sector.
Independents are much more pessimistic on these questions, with just over one-quarter (26 percent) saying that leaving the agreement will help the economy and 33 percent saying it will create more jobs than it costs. As expected, Democrats are even more critical, with clear majorities saying the agreement will cost jobs and hurt the economy.
More Americans expect leaving the agreement will have negative than positive consequences for international efforts to combat climate change and U.S. leadership more broadly.
The Post-ABC poll was conducted Friday to Sunday among a random national sample of 527 adults, including users of cellular and landline phones. The margin of sampling error for overall results is plus or minus five percentage points.