Voters say "I am Not a Guinea Pig": New poll shows strong, deep, bipartisan support for comprehensive chemical safety overhaul

Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist.

Today, the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition released the results of a poll conducted by the well-respected Mellman Group in key swing districts around the country.  It shows that Americans of all stripes and political persuasions overwhelmingly support a major overhaul of our nation's chemical safety law.

A whopping 84% of likely voters say that "tightening controls" on chemicals is important, with 50% calling it "very important.”  That response includes 75% of Republicans and 82% of Independents.  When provided with a brief description of the reform proposals recently introduced into Congress, seven in 10 likely voters indicated they favor the legislation.

But here are the real kickers:  When given more detail about its specific provisions, support for the legislation went up significantly, from 71% to 82%.  And the largest increases in support were seen among Republicans (a 25% increase) and those in a household dependent on the chemical industry (22% increase). 

Strong support for key elements of comprehensive reform

Look at the remarkable level of support among likely voters for these reform elements:

  • 90% support requiring companies to test the chemicals they manufacture to prove they are safe as a condition of being on the market.
  • 86% support creation of a process under which all chemicals in use would have to be tested and shown to be safe over the next 15 years.
  • 85% support requirements that EPA identify "hot spots" where residents are disproportionately exposed to toxic chemicals, and that EPA act to control those exposures.
  • 78% support giving EPA the authority to ban the use of toxic chemicals that build up in the food chain and people's bodies.

Support remains strong even when the strongest opposing arguments are provided

When likely voters were given arguments on both sides of the debate over the current legislation, they still favored the reform proposals by more than a 4-to-1 margin, 78% to 18%.

A candidate who argues that existing regulations are outdated or inadequate to protect health enjoyed triple the support of a candidate who says passage of the legislation would hurt the economy and cost jobs.

And the strongest opposition messages tested in the poll were only half as influential as the weakest messages supporting reform.

Strong support for candidates supporting reform – regardless of their party affiliation

After hearing all of the arguments, a large majority (66%) preferred a candidate who supports the proposal for reform.  And in a hypothetical head-to-head contest, there was very little difference in the level of support based on which party the candidate represented:

  • When the Democratic candidate supported the reform legislation and the Republican opposed it, 57% supported and 23% opposed the candidate who supports the legislation.
  • When the Republican candidate supported the reform legislation and the Democrat opposed it, 52% supported and 19% opposed the candidate who supports the legislation.

Bottom line:  Nearly everyone supports strong reform of our chemical safety law

Overall, the poll found strong support for reform across a range of demographic indicators.  Significant majorities of likely voters support reform – whether they are liberal or conservative, young or older, or men or women, and no matter what their education or income level or in what part of the country they reside.

The lowest level of support was among voters identifying themselves as conservative – and that level was still 68%!

This poll is cause for optimism that, on this issue, we can rise above the partisan rancor and do what Americans from all walks of life clearly want done.

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