The survey, based on interviews with 800 owners of small businesses, is one of the first to look specifically at small business owners' attitudes regarding clean energy policies.
Sixty-one percent of the small business owners polled agreed with the statement that moving the country to clean energy is a way to restart the economy and help small businesses create jobs.
Fifty-eight percent of those surveyed think that adopting new energy policies will transform the economy and they want their businesses to be part of it.
Interviewers from Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and American Viewpoint contacted a total of 802 owners, managers, and chief executivess of businesses with 100 or fewer employees between March 24 and April 6, 2010.
The base sample of 600 small business owners was supplemented by two oversamples of minority-owned business - 100 African American small business owners and 100 Hispanic small business owners.
Crane crews install a giant wind turbine at the National Wind Technology Center at Golden, Colorado. August 2009. (Photo by Pat Corkery courtesy NREL)
"This survey reflects the views of a stakeholder group that's relatively new to the national conversation on clean energy policy. The research shows that small business owners want action on clean energy, which they believe will strengthen the country's economy," said John Arensmeyer, founder and CEO of Small Business Majority, one of the sponsors of the poll.
"For a while, we've been hearing that many large businesses support new clean energy policies, but now we're hearing it from a broad cross-section of smaller businesses as well," Arensmeyer said.
Small Business Majority is a national nonprofit organization based in Sausalito, California, that works with small business owners, policy experts and elected officials to bring nonpartisan small business voices to the public policy table - voices like that of Annette Gonzalez-Fassler.
"As a Hispanic business owner with 17 employees, I know that moving to clean energy is smart for my business, my employees and my family," said Gonzalez-Fassler, president of LAF Group, Inc., who runs several General Nutrition Centers.
"In order to be truly competitive in the 21st century, America needs to embrace clean energy policies that will create jobs, protect the environment and strengthen our economy for the long-term," she said. at the National Wind Technology Center.
The House of Representatives passed its version of a clean energy bill in June 2009, and in the Senate the American Power Act was introduced last month by Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, a Democrat, and Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman, an Independent. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada has said he wants to move to a vote in July.
"One of the most surprising findings of the survey is that despite the fact that nearly two-thirds of business owners believe it would increase costs for their businesses, a majority still want to move forward on clean energy and climate policy," said Anna Greenberg, senior vice president and principal of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research.
The two other sponsors are We Can Lead, a nationwide coalition of 1,000 business leaders, innovators, entrepreneurs, investors, manufacturers and energy providers who support "comprehensive, forward looking energy and climate policies in the United States," and the umbrella group, American Businesses for Clean Energy.
Another recent poll finds that opinion polls underestimate Americans' concern about the environment because of the way the survey questions are worded.
"For years, the wording used in traditional surveys has systematically underestimated the priority that the public has placed on global warming and the environment," said Jon Krosnick, a professor of communication and of political science at Stanford University.
"To fully understand public concern about these issues, traditional surveys should be asking a different question," Krosnick said.
For the Stanford study, the research team analyzed the results of two national surveys. The first was a September 2009 Internet poll of 906 adults, conducted by the polling firm Abt SRBI.
Respondents were randomly asked open-ended questions.
When asked, "What do you think is the most important problem facing the country today?" about 49 percent answered the economy or unemployment, while only one percent mentioned the environment or global warming.
When asked, "What do you think will be the most serious problem facing the world in the future if nothing is done to stop it?" about 25 percent said the environment or global warming, and only 10 percent picked the economy or unemployment.
Then the researchers analyzed a November 2009 telephone survey of 1,055 adults sponsored by the Woods Institute for the Environment and the Associated Press.
When asked "What do you think is the most important problem facing the country today?" about 49 percent of these respondents answered the economy or unemployment, while only one percent mentioned the environment or global warming.
But when asked, "What do you think will be the most serious problem facing the world in the future if nothing is done to stop it?" 25 percent said the environment or global warming, and only 10 percent picked the economy.
In fact, said Krosnick, environmental issues were cited more often than any other category, including terrorism, which was only mentioned by 10 percent of respondents.
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