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Since the early days of his administration, Donald Trump has sought to use his presidency to slow the country’s transition to clean energy, blocking key environmental regulations and lending his support to the fossil fuel industry whenever he can.
But his distaste for wind power has been particularly strong. He’s frequently called wind turbines “ugly” and dismissed them as a blight on local communities. In April he said that “the noise” from the turbines “causes cancer,” a false claim dismissed by the American Cancer Society.
In Iowa, a key presidential state where the wind industry is thriving, only 1% of registered voters agree with Trump that wind turbines cause cancer, according to a new poll from Yale and George Mason universities. The poll, shared exclusively with TIME, shows that 84% know that wind power doesn’t cause cancer while 15% say they don’t know for sure.
The finding represent just one example of the challenge Trump faces with environmental issues in the lead up to the 2020 election: Americans understand the science of climate change and polling shows that they support many of the solutions to stop it that Trump has panned.
Renewable energy sources like wind and solar rank at the top of that list. Even in many places Trump won, like Iowa, clean energy sources enjoy bipartisan support. The industry creates jobs and supports the tax base. Some landowners even receive payments for leasing their land. More than three quarters of Iowans say they would support requiring local utility companies to get 100% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2050, according to the poll. Majorities all said they thought that such a transition would have a positive impact on the state’s economy, electricity costs and rural communities. The survey of 519 Iowa registered voters has a margin of error of 4.6 percentage points.
“Republican, Democrat doesn’t matter, they all support wind energy because it’s economic,” says Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association, from the Iowa State Fair. “We’re helping rural America.”
Trump has responded subtly to those pressures. After spending the first years of his presidency primarily talking about deregulation whenever the environment was discussed, Trump delivered a speech in July that the White House billed as an opportunity to highlight his environmental accomplishments. Throughout the speech Trump and a slew of high-ranking officials insisted that the administration was up to good work on the environment that failed to receive mich attention. “We’re doing a very tough job and not everybody knows it,” said Trump.
But convincing the public will require more than a speech and Trump has yet to offer much of substance to support his claims. On wind energy specifically, the administration continues to set up roadblocks that have slowed its development, including stalling a project off the coast of Massachusetts last week. And, more broadly, Trump has shown no signs of slowing his deregulatory agenda that has targeted climate regulations.
On the ground in Iowa this past weekend, as Democrats vied for primary voters at the Iowa State Fair, the state Republican Party displayed a banner branding the Green New Deal the “Green Real Steal,” saying the proposal to create a vast mobilization to fight climate change endorsed by some progressive Democrats would cost Iowa farmers.
The threat of environmental regulation has helped Republicans win Iowa and other states like it in the past, but the polling suggests that the GOP may need to do more than just slam Democratic proposals if climate change continues to capture the attention of voters into general election season next year.