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A service for global professionals · Thursday, June 13, 2024 · 719,631,016 Articles · 3+ Million Readers

Climate-First Americans Are Less Likely to Vote

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Every Monday, in “Climate on the Ballot,” we pass along a topic to help you integrate climate into your newsroom’s campaign reporting. Consider sharing this newsletter with your colleagues on the politics beat. Vea la versión en español de “El clima en la boleta.”


This Week: Climate-first Voters

A growing number of Americans say addressing climate change is their number one concern this election year. But, historically, this concern hasn’t translated into votes.

In many states, including key battlegrounds like Arizona, Nevada, and Pennsylvania, “unlikely voters” are twice as likely to list climate change as a top priority as people who actually turn out. The Environmental Voter Project, a nonprofit working to change that, estimates that over 8 million of these “low-propensity environmental voters” skip presidential elections. For journalists, understanding these Americans — and why their political interests aren’t translating into votes cast — is integral to covering an election that will determine the climate future.

Reporting Ideas

  • Interview young people in your area who are getting active on climate. Gen Z and Millennial voters consistently list climate among their top issues, according to polls by Tufts CIRCLE and NPR/PBS/Marist. Does their climate passion translate into political engagement?
  • Are older people in your community prioritizing climate in November? Researchers found that across 18 states, 1 in 6 voters aged 65 and older view climate as a top priority, making them the second largest group of potential voters in those states to prioritize climate, according to a new report from the Environmental Voter Project. In swing states like Arizona and Pennsylvania, the margins are so slim that turning out climate-first voters could turn the election.
  • Ask researchers at the Environmental Voter Project about climate-first voters and voting patterns in your area. While abortion rights and gun control turn out voters, environmental action has focused more on protest and personal actions like recycling and changing light bulbs. Some of this is due to fossil fuel industry messaging.
  • Ask Black voters in climate vulnerable areas how they prioritize climate policies. Polling on climate policy often lacks race and ethnicity data. In new research, The Brookings Institute found that “Black voters are more concerned about climate change than the national average” — not surprising given that Black Americans are among the groups most affected by climate impacts.
  • Investigate how fossil fuel interests fund voter suppression efforts. “Between 2015 and 2020, fossil fuel interests donated millions to state lawmakers who backed voter suppression bills” and organizations backing those efforts, such as the inaptly-named Honest Elections Project. These laws disproportionately disenfranchise BIPOC and low-income communities who are both more vulnerable to climate impacts and more likely to support environmental regulation and climate legislation than other communities. The Union of Concerned Scientists connects the dots.

Take Inspiration

  • Young people are increasingly “climate anxious,” but how they think about voting is “complicated,” reported NPR. They say they don’t feel like either party is doing enough on the issue.
  • “The climate movement doesn’t have a persuasion problem as much as we have a turnout problem,” says Nathaniel Stinnett of the Environmental Voter Project in this Bloomberg article looking at how the nonpartisan nonprofit worked to mobilize climate-first voters before Super Tuesday.
  • Utah is one of the reddest states in the country, but over the last 50 years the Great Salt Lake has shrunk by half and “temperatures have risen at about twice the global average.” Voters are concerned about climate change and “two self-professed climate candidates are running to replace Mitt Romney,” reported Capital & Main in its biweekly climate and election series, The Heat.
  • Energy News Network explored on how voter suppression and gerrymandering are affecting progress on climate policy in Ohio. When representatives win elections thanks to gerrymandering, they are less likely to listen to constituents and people are less motivated to vote. “Ohio is a microcosm of something much bigger,” said the Institute for Policy Studies’ climate justice policy director, Basav Sen.

Spotlight Piece

“In Minnesota, people who specialize in selling EVs say it’s the driving experience that gets customers in these cars, not politics or concerns about the environment,” writes Dan Gearino in this Inside Climate News piece that explores how one successful car dealer is selling electric cars in Trump country.

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