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Civil Society Institute

The Civil Society Institute (CSI) has been doing public opinion research on energy policy and the environment since 2004.

The research you will read about are the most recent findings of a four-year study looking at public support for renewable energy and how concerns about water safety, quality and availability play a role in voters’ approach to environmental policies.

CSI’s approach is unique. We have sought to find common ground, to explore the ways that differences can be bridged to make way for breakthroughs. Much of public opinion research measures the depth of division, conflict and can inadvertently (or, in some cases, it can purposefully) be used to create political wedge issues instead of seeking solutions. In seeking common ground and taking a solutions-oriented approach to research, the usual ‘for or against’ and binary approach is avoided.

CSI’s approach seeks to advance solutions by demonstrating where political openings exist. Progress is often masked when gridlocked political parties and elected officials fail to see or refuse to see how to move beyond hyper-partisanship. The research we present shows consistent public support for renewable energy among all groups we identify. The research also shows the depth and breadth of concern about clean, safe and accessible water and the ways in which this concern animates voters’ support for protecting the environment.

A central takeaway from the research is that how one speaks about renewable energy matters. While support for renewables is wide and deep, it does not necessarily come from the same motivation. Some see it as exciting new technology, some as a practical way to save money and gain independence from utility companies, others as a move consistent with their values as environmentalists, or as the answer to climate change. The reasons are many, and the wide acceptance, for whatever reason, is good news. The challenge, as with many issues, is in preventing it from becoming captive to hyper-partisan politics.