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The Boston Globe

Politics

Weekly poll

Voters support expansion of bottle deposit law

The public relations war remains in the planning phase, and few dollars have been spent on what promises to be an expensive campaign by the deep-pocketed bottling industry and other opponents of a ballot question that would expand the state’s bottle law.

But a new poll by The Boston Globe shows opponents have much work to do to persuade voters by November to nix the proposed law, which would expand the nickel deposit that encourages recycling of soda, beer, and malt beverage containers to include bottled water, sports drinks, and other noncarbonated beverages.

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The poll found that 62 percent of likely voters support expanding the law, while 27 percent oppose it. Only 10 percent said they were undecided.

Their positions changed only slightly when provided more information about Question 2 on the ballot. When told that supporters say expanding the bottle law is necessary because fewer than 25 percent of nonredeemable bottles are recycled and that opponents argue it’s unnecessary given the rise of curbside and municipal recycling, support for the bill remained the same and opposition increased to 32 percent. Six percent were undecided.

“Normally, we see more of a change in support or opposition after we add questions with messaging,” said Jonathan Chavez, chief analytics officer at SocialSphere Inc. in Cambridge, which conducted the poll as part of a series of weekly surveys for the Globe. “We don’t see any real changes happening here, and that’s relatively rare.”

He said the small number of undecided voters is probably the result of voters’ familiarity with the issue. “It’s not a political issue with a lot of complications,” he said. “That suggests not a whole lot can or will be done to change opinions.”

The live telephone survey of 606 likely voters, conducted Aug. 3 to 5 and Aug. 10 to 12, had an error margin of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

The poll, which included a range of other questions about environmental issues, found more than 80 percent of likely voters said the environmental positions of presidential and gubernatorial candidates are “important” in determining whom they would support.

While a majority of Democrats and Republicans said environmental positions are important to their vote, 50 percent of Democrats and 25 percent of Republicans called it “very important.”

There was a similar party divide over whether voters think humans are contributing to climate change. The poll found 71 percent of likely voters think the average temperature of the planet has increased in recent decades, while 27 percent said it hasn’t.

Overall, 73 percent of Democrats and 43 percent of independents said the Earth is warming because of human activity. But only 29 percent of Republicans said they believe that.

There also appears to be a gap between voters’ perceptions of their environmental bona fides and their positions.

When asked how they grade their family’s protection of the environment, 78 percent gave themselves a B or better, with only 1 percent saying they deserved a failing grade.

But when questioned about two increasingly controversial issues pushed strongly by environmental advocates, more voters had opposing views.

When asked whether they support the expansion of a natural gas pipeline that would extend from the Berkshires to Dracut, which environmental groups oppose vigorously because of increased emissions and potential contamination of water supplies, 52 percent said they supported the proposed multibillion-dollar project, 28 percent said they oppose it, and 20 percent said they were undecided.

A plurality of voters also said they oppose a proposed law that would require the state’s pension fund to cease new investments in fossil fuel-based companies and divest itself from all fossil fuel holdings within five years. Forty-one percent said they oppose such a law, while 34 percent said they would support it and 25 percent lacked a position.

Most of those polled said they would be willing to pay higher utility bills if they knew the additional money would go to reducing greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. But only 17 percent would be willing to see their bills rise more than 10 percent and 31 percent said they oppose any increase.

The poll, as it does every week, also tracked the gubernatorial race. It found little has changed in recent weeks.

In the Democratic primary, Attorney General Martha Coakley continued to hold a commanding lead. Forty-five percent of likely voters said they supported her, the same as in the previous three weeks. Support for Treasurer Steve Grossman rebounded to 21 percent from 18 percent and support went from 9 percent to 10 percent for Don Berwick. Twenty-four percent remained undecided, down from 28 percent in the last poll. The margin of error for this question was plus or minus 5.2 percentage points.

In the general election, Coakley lost a little ground to Republican front-runner Charlie Baker, going from 42 percent to 40 percent, while Baker went from 31 percent to 32 percent.

David Abel can be reached at dabel@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @davabel.
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