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Climate Change

Climate Action Is Not Controversial—The Data Proves It

Extreme heat, severe storms, raging wildfires, and other devastating consequences of climate change have already devastated communities across the United States, and Americans have noticed. As a result, we’ve seen the climate crisis surge to the top of polls of issues Democratic voters care about, several 2020 Democratic presidential candidates have placed ambitious climate plans at the top of their agendas, and the media has begun to give the topic the attention it warrants.

Earlier this month, CNN devoted an unprecedented seven consecutive hours to a presidential climate crisis town hall, this week MSNBC will host a two day presidential climate forum, and, in advance of the United Nations Climate Summit on September 23, more than 170 news outlets (including Crooked Media!) have committed to producing a week’s worth of climate coverage

As political leaders and media outlets have moved, so has public opinion. State and Congressional district level data commissioned for the first time by Data for Progress and the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) now shows that voters of every political party in all corners of the country support bold action to combat the climate crisis.

This is a big deal—and it runs counter to what fossil fuel allies and  out of touch political insiders would have you believe. The American people know the climate crisis is real and want action now.

Our survey of 8,410 individuals nationwide, which we  weighted to a projected 2020 electorate, found that from Southern California to the Rust Belt, and everywhere in-between, voters overwhelmingly support key policies needed to combat the climate crisis. 

For instance, in California’s 50th District, 73 percent of voters support, “achieving 100% clean, renewable energy in time to mitigate the effects of climate change.” Their representative in U.S. Congress is Republican Duncan Hunter, who has said, “Nobody really knows the cause. The Earth cools, the Earth warms … Maybe we should kill the cows to stop the methane, or stop breathing to stop the CO2.”

If you’re thinking, “of course people say they support ‘clean, renewable energy’ if it will ‘mitigate the effects of climate change,’” consider this:  

On the other side of the country, in central Pennsylvania’s 10th Congressional District, a majority (63 percent) of voters support putting a price on carbon pollution. But their congressman, Rep.  Scott Perry (R-PA), co-sponsored a resolution in opposition to a carbon tax and has said that Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement was, “a solid first step to reasserting the role of the U.S. Constitution in international affairs and domestic policies.” Unfortunately for Perry, a majority of Americans, by a two to one margin, opposed Trump’s decision to withdraw from this landmark global climate agreement.

The new district- and state-specific data on support for major climate solutions provides insights about how the issue will play in 2020.

In anticipated battleground states, over 90 percent of respondents support ensuring all people have clean air and clean water. The Trump administration, by contrast, has thrown out clean air and water protections left and right. Data from Trump’s own EPA clearly shows there were 15 percent more unhealthy air days in the U.S. in the last two years than the four prior, yet his administration gutted the Clean Power Plan, is rolling back regulations against mercury and other toxic pollution, and has even disbanded scientific expert panels that advise the EPA on unsafe levels of air pollution. President Trump also intends to put our drinking water at risk; his administration is working to take away critical safeguards put in place under the Clean Water Act that protect the sources of drinking water for one in three people in our country.

Moving to 100 percent clean energy, putting a price on carbon pollution, and ensuring clean air and water for every community were just three of the over one dozen policy ideas we surveyed. The vast majority of these polled way over 50 percent. And every single policy we asked about is part of the Green New Deal. In fact, our poll of 8,410 individuals nationwide is one of the most extensive surveys to date of support for key Green New Deal components. 

In other words, the core components of the proposal, which conservatives have called a “socialist con game” and “Green New Disaster,” are actually extremely popular among voters across the political spectrum.

That means it’s time for elected officials to catch up with their constituents. Members of Congress, candidates, and advocates should drill down into data at the state Congressional district level to gauge support for solutions that help tackle climate change and address economic, racial, and social inequality. 

Current and aspiring elected officials will learn they would do well to follow through on climate actions that voters across the country want, and that doing so will provide them a competitive advantage in elections.  

The enormous scale of the climate crisis will require a level of policy ambition just as big, if we’re going to address it. The good news is, the tools we need to do that already exist and the public desperately wants us to use them.

Sara Chieffo (@SaraChieffo) is the Vice President of Government Affairs at the League of Conservation Voters (LCV)

Sean McElwee (@SeanMcElwee) is a co-founder of Data for Progress 

The survey cited throughout was conducted by Civis Analytics. Civis correctly forecast the winner in 383 out of 394 contested 2018 races (97%), and their estimate of the national popular vote in 2018 was accurate to within tenths of a percent.