Bioeconomy’s GOP voters to Prez candidates: It’s OK to mess with the RFS

October 26, 2015 |

PickYourPresidentHow do bioeconomy sector voters view the race to the White House, in Iowa and nationally? Here’s The Digest’s poll.

In Florida, a Digest Bioeconomy poll has found that 68% of Republican-oriented bioeconomy sector voters support candidates pledged to end the Renewable Fuels Standard, or phase it out. And a majority of Republican-oriented Bioeconomy voters in Iowa support anti-RFS candidates.

The poll measures support in the advanced bioeconomy sector — representing the convergence between agriculture, industrial biotechnology, energy security, materials science, genetics, and robotics — and the making of advanced transportation fuels, power, biobased chemicals and high-performance biomaterials.  Iowa is the leading ethanol -producing US state.


Last week, America’s Renewable Future and DuPont released a poll of Iowa voters which suggested that voters are broadly in favor of the Renewable Fuel Standard and biofuels-friendly policies. The Digest poll may demonstrate that, even in the core bioeconomy sector itself, levels of policy support and actual candidate preference are at significantly different levels. The Iowa caucuses, the first major presidential primary season test, are not held until February 1st, leaving plenty of time for results and candidate preferences to shift.

Overall, 68% of GOP supporters chose one of the eight candidates pledged on the RFS to “end it” or “phase it out”, compared to 32% support for the six candidates who are pro-RFS.

In the national poll, “End it!” candidates (Carson, Paul, and Cruz) are picked up 30% support nationally among GOP bioeconomy voters, compared to 38% for “Phase it out” candidates (Bush, Fiorina, Jindal, Kasich and Rubio). Christie, Graham, Huckabee, Pataki, Santorum and Trump are pro-RFS. All three Democratic candidates are “pro-RFS”.

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are leading the Republican and Democratic races for nomination in The Digest’s US Presidential Poll.

The poll, which has been conducted by The Digest over the period 10/23-10/26, has a margin of error of 4.1%.

The National Poll

On the Republican side, the results to date are:

Donald Trump 26%
Ben Carson 23%
Jeb Bush 11%
John Kasich 10%
Marco Rubio 9%
Carly Fiorina 6%
Rand Paul 4%
Ted Cruz 3%
Chris Christie 2%
Mike Huckabee 1%
Bobby Jindal 1%
George Pataki 1%
Lindsay Graham 1%
Rick Santorum 1%

On the Democratic side, the results to date are:

Hillary Clinton 64%
Bernie Sanders 34%
Martin O’Malley 2%

Overall party support

Bioeconomy voters nationally are supporting:

GOP candidates 47.3%
Democratic candidates 52.7%

Overall RFS support

Bioeconomy voters nationally are supporting candidates pledged as follows:

End it! 30%
Phase it out 38%
I’m for it! 32%

Republican voter RFS support

Bioeconomy voters nationally are supporting candidates pledged as follows:

End it! 14%
Phase it out 18%
I’m for it! 68%

Iowa voters

The subset of Iowa voters was small, but the results generally mirrored the National Poll:

On the Republican side, the results to date are:

Ben Carson 29%
Donald Trump 21%
Jeb Bush 16%
John Kasich 8%
Mike Huckabee 5%
Carly Fiornina 5%
Ted Cruz 3%
Bobby Jindal 3%
George Pataki 3%
Marco Rubio 3%
Chris Christie 3%
Rand Paul 3%
Lindsay Graham <1%
Rick Santorum <1%

On the Democratic side, the results to date are:

Hillary Clinton 63%
Bernie Sanders 37%
Martin O’Malley <1%

Iowa party support

Bioeconomy voters in Iowa are supporting:

GOP candidates 66.7%
Democratic candidates 33.3%

Iowa RFS support

Bioeconomy voters in Iowa are supporting:

End it! 23%
Phase it out 23%
I’m for it! 54%

The Iowa bioeconomy voter subset of the poll has a statistical margin of error of 13.9%.

Polarized support

When we asked voters to rank the top 10 Republican candidates, we saw more highly-polarized support in the National poll for Donald Trump, and high negatives for Bush and Kasich among candidates near the top of the poll, Carson, Rubio and Fiorina have comparatively few voters putting them towards the bottom of their preferences.



Ranked in Top 3 Ranked in Bottom 3

Ben Carson        51% 13%
Marco Rubio     44% 11%
Carly Fiornina  36% 17%
Donald Trump 41% 33%
Jeb Bush            32% 25%
John Kasich      25% 29%
Mike Huckabee 10% 49%
Ted Cruz             18% 38%
Rand Paul           14% 43%
Chris Christie     16% 28%

Over on the Democratic side we saw highly consistent support for Clinton as the lead choice, Sanders second, O’Malley third and Chafee trailing badly before he quit the race last Friday. O’Malley is somewhat competitive with Sanders as a second preference.

The US presidential candidates, profiled on bioeconomy support

The candidates were profiled by the Digest last week, here.

The America’s Renewable Future / DuPont poll

America’s Renewable Future, a group which advocates telling “DC to stop putting Big Oil ahead of renewable fuels” in calling for RFS support, conducted an Iowa poll last week with DuPont, and found that “once informed about the Renewable Fuel Standard and biofuels, a solid majority of caucus-goers from both political parties would be more likely to vote for a presidential candidate who supports them.”

Poll results indicated that 61 percent of Republicans and 76 percent of Democrats would be more likely to support a candidate who supports progress in these areas.

  • 75 percent of Republicans and 87 percent of Democrats surveyed endorsed lower greenhouse gas emissions compared to gasoline as a good reason to continue the RFS;
  • 88 percent of Republicans and 93 percent of Democrats react favorably to the strong job and wage benefits the RFS ensures for Iowa;
  • 86 percent of Republicans and 92 percent of Democrats say the hundreds of thousands of American jobs the RFS ensures across the country are a good reason to continue the program.

The poll found that 71% of both Republicans and Democrats have positive associations with ethanol and a nearly identical percentage of both Republicans and Democrats – 84 and 88 percent respectively – say the RFS is good for Iowa.  And, once informed about the RFS and cellulosic ethanol, 79 percent of Republican and 90 percent of Democratic likely caucus-goers say the RFS is good for the nation.

Once informed about cellulosic ethanol, strong majorities of both Republicans and Democrats support the product for offering lower prices at the pump (68 percent of Republicans and 77 percent of Democrats) and providing economic opportunity through job creation and establishing an entirely new revenue stream for local farmers (80 percent of Republicans and 83 percent of Democrats).

The Digest Mirror election

In the weeks leading up to the Iowa caucuses, where agricultural issues are highly prominent, the Digest is conducting a mirror election amongst its readership, commencing with this poll. Voters in each US state will have a “primary election” between now and February 1st to determine which candidates command the most support among bioeconomy-focused readers.

The Digest, the world’s most widely-read bioeconomy daily, has 1.8 million unique readers in more than 190 countries, with 52% of those readers residing in the US.

The Bottom Line

The hard data is always surprising. Big surprises to many observers — that bioeconomy voters are not as left-leaning as many assume, despite their interest in the environment; and that the Renewable Fuel Standard has such thin support among conservatives in the advanced bioeconomy, as expressed in support for candidates who aim to end the RFS or phase it out.

So far in Iowa, strong positive majority support for renewable fuels that we see in the ARF/DuPont poll is not translating into support for pro-RFS candidates, among conservatives. Even given the large error margin associated with small samples, we’re seeing a range of 53-80% support for anti-RFS candidates.

Although White House support for the RFS is assured in the event of a Democratic victory, since all candidates are in the “I’m for it!” category, pro-RFS advocates have a long ways to go on the Republican side, either in building support for pro-RFS candidates or changing the minds of candidates. Especially given that advanced bioeconomy voters are more likely to be aware of and focused on renewable fuels policy than the mainstream of voters.


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