A battle is brewing between Biden administration officials and several Republican-led states over where and how funds from the $1.2 trillion infrastructure law are deployed — including whether to invest in communities of color that have been disproportionately battered by the effects of climate change. A Morning Consult survey found that registered voters living in urban areas are overwhelmingly supportive of prioritizing minority communities with investments of that kind.
Respondents were asked whether they support or oppose prioritizing communities of color in local government investments to lessen the negative consequences of pollution and climate change
What the numbers say
- Seventy percent of urban voters said they support local government investments that prioritize lessening the negative consequences of pollution and climate change in communities of color, including 42 percent who back that approach “strongly.” Just 15 percent of voters living in urban areas are opposed to such investments, while another 14 percent didn’t know or had no opinion.
- Among urban voters, men were especially likely to be in favor of sending pollution-mitigating infrastructure dollars to communities of color, at 77 percent. A majority of urban women agreed, though a substantially lower share at 59 percent.
- The difference in support for these policies between urban white voters and urban voters of color was negligible when factoring in margin of error, at 69 percent and 73 percent, respectively.
- Urban homeowners (75 percent) were substantially more likely than urban renters (58 percent) to back the prioritization of investments in communities of color.
- The survey featured a split-sample approach, with the other half of respondents receiving a prompt stating that “research shows that the negative consequences of pollution and climate change disproportionately impact communities of color,” followed by the question. There was virtually no difference in the responses among all urban voters based on the question’s framing.
While the infrastructure package that President Joe Biden signed into law four months ago does not mandate investments in communities of color, he issued an executive order the same day that called for the disbursement of “public dollars equitably, including through the Justice40 Initiative.”
That initiative, which was unveiled during Biden’s initial wave of post-inauguration executive orders, established a target of “delivering 40 percent of the overall benefits of relevant federal investments to disadvantaged communities,” with an explicit emphasis on climate and clean energy.
But because Justice40 language isn’t included in the infrastructure law, local officials have leeway on whether to take that into account when allocating the funds. In response to a letter from infrastructure czar and former New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu, calling for the support of “disadvantaged and underserved communities” and the advancement of “climate resilience and sustainability” through the law, 16 Republican governors wrote in a letter to Biden that “excessive consideration of equity, union memberships or climate as lenses to view suitable projects would be counterproductive.”
Unsurprisingly, the split between the Biden-Landrieu coalition and the GOP governors reflects the feelings of their respective parties nationally: Nearly 3 in 4 Democrats overall would like to see communities of color have an edge when local governments invest in policies that mitigate the effects of climate change, while only about a third of Republicans overall said the same.
The Feb. 19-20, 2022, survey was conducted among a representative sample of 544 urban voters, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-4 percentage points.