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CRS Research Reveals ALA Omitted Key Information in Recent Polling

09/16/2015

New research released today from the Center for Regulatory Solutions (CRS) has uncovered significant information that is missing from an ozone poll conducted last week by the American Lung Association (ALA). The ALA claimed the poll shows “overwhelming support” for a plan to dramatically tighten the federal ozone standard from 75 parts per billion (ppb), which has been in place less than a decade, into the range of 65 to 70 ppb. But when CRS ran exactly the same poll with one extra question – how much are voters willing to pay – the ALA’s claims of public support completely falls apart.

The ALA released the poll in reaction to growing criticism of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and others who want to move the goal posts on ozone, including outside groups like the ALA. Groups representing more than 20,000 local governments – including the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the National Association of Counties – are demanding the existing standard of 75 ppb be given a chance to work. State and local officials from both sides of the political aisle – including Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) and U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet (D) from the bellwether state of Colorado – have gone public with their concerns. Organized labor groups representing millions workers, including the Laborers International Union of North America, have made their opposition clear. And employers big and small across the country are reminding the Obama administration that it rejected any lowering of the ozone standard just four years ago, out of a concern for the economic damage it could cause.

When the ALA released the poll Sept. 9, it claimed “[a]n overwhelming 73 percent of voters support the EPA placing stricter limits” on ozone. ALA President and CEO Harold P. Wimmer even accused critics of the proposal of being dishonest. “Our poll shows that the public does not buy the polluters’ misleading rhetoric,” Wimmer said. “Instead, support for clean air standards has grown stronger.”

Their rhetoric is provocative, especially considering that the ALA is under fire from environmental regulators and the news media for making false air quality claims to support its political agenda. But even worse, the poll used by the ALA to attack its critics omits critical facts in order to present a skewed result. .

We know this because CRS conducted a follow-up poll, using the same question as the ALA. But CRS also asked voters how much they would be prepared to pay for a tighter federal ozone standard, reflecting the bipartisan chorus of concerns from state and local officials and business and labor groups. The ALA poll, by comparison, minimized the issue of cost and avoided a discussion of cost specifics completely.

Once voters are asked about their own willingness to pay, support for the EPA’s ozone proposal plunges. CRS polling shows that 72 percent of the public are unwilling to pay more than $100 a year. Roughly half that number – 36 percent – said they would not pay anything at all. Therefore, when asked about a study that estimates the cost per household at $830 per year, a majority of voters oppose the EPA’s plan outright.

As CRS has noted before, the ALA’s credibility has quickly eroded in the communities with the most at stake in the ozone debate. If the ALA thinks this biased polling will restore its credibility, it should think again.

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