Since the defeat of US carbon legislation in 2010, conventional political wisdom has held that climate was a losing issue. Politicians left and right have sought to distance themselves or even reverse their positions on climate change. And emboldened "deniers" have ramped up their anti-science agenda.
The reality is that the trend in public opinion is going the other way and candidates in the current election cycle would do well to pay attention. A report from Yale and George Mason University summarizing recent voter polls indicates just how wrong the conventional wisdom is. It concludes that "at the national level and among ten key swing states – taking a proclimate stand appears to benefit candidates more than hurt them with registered voters."
Even more intriguing for those looking for votes are the following conclusions:
- A majority of all registered voters (55%) say they will consider candidates' views on global warming when deciding how to vote.
- Among these climate change issue voters, large majorities believe global warming is happening and support action by the U.S. to reduce global warming, even if it has economic costs.
- Independents lean toward “climate action” and look more like Democrats than Republicans on the issue.
- A pro-climate action position wins votes among Democrats and Independents, and has little negative impact with Republican voters.
- Policies to reduce America’s dependence on fossil fuels and promote renewable energy are favored by a majority of registered voters across party lines.
- These patterns are found nationally and among ten swing states.
Politicians should heed the numbers and reconsider where they stand on climate change. As the remaining skeptics fall away, I think we'll see a resurgence of interest in the issue and increasing support for leaders who are willing to take a realistic look at our energy policy and its impact on the globe.