Memo: Democrats Should Go on Offense on Climate in 2020

To: Interested Parties
From: Andrew Baumann and Maura Farrell, Global Strategy Group
Date: July 16, 2020
Re: New Research Shows that Democrats Should Go on Offense on Climate in 2020

Global Strategy Group partnered with Climate Power 2020 and Data for Progress to conduct in-depth research exploring how climate can impact the 2020 election up and down the ballot – and how Democrats can best use it to their advantage. The research shows that climate is a winning issue for Democrats and can help them expand their margins among key groups of voters who are not yet fully translating dissatisfaction with Trump into votes for Democrats: center-right voters, younger voters, and Latinx voters – particularly women.
This new research shows that these key groups, and voters more generally, overwhelmingly support bold action on climate. More importantly, the research shows that Democrats can effectively rebut dishonest attacks from Donald Trump and other Republicans around the Green New Deal. Not only can Democrats credibly challenge these attacks, Democrats can also use voters’ inherent skepticism about the GOP’s claims to take the attack to Republicans and effectively paint Trump and the GOP as corrupt and selfish liars who are putting the future of our children at risk – and move votes at both the presidential and Congressional level.
The following memo is based on an online survey conducted June 23-July 1 among 1,031 registered voters nationwide, plus additional oversamples to achieve 3,249 interviews, including 1,575 voters in battleground states, 2,070 middle partisan voters, 1,073 voters ages 18-34, and 660 Latinx voters.
Key Findings:
  • Vice President Biden and Congressional Democrats are in good electorate shape, though climate helps solidify support among center-right, younger, and Latinx voters, especially women. Biden and Democrats are currently winning matchups against Donald Trump and Congressional Republicans, but among many key demographic groups, dissatisfaction with Trump (+18 net UNfavorable nationwide) is even greater than support for Biden (+11) and support for a generic Congressional Democrat (+10). As the table below shows, this gap indicates that there is room for further growth in Democrats’ vote share, especially among independents, voters age 27 and younger, and Latinx voters – and the gap is particularly pronounced with women within each of those groups.

  • Voters want bold action on climate, which makes it a winning issue for Democrats – especially with the same groups with whom Democrats have the most room to grow. Voters overwhelmingly support BOLD (emphasis added) government action to combat climate change and would vote for a Democrat who supports taking such action over a Republican who does not by 24 points – outpacing the standard generic ballot by 14 points. Framing the vote around climate action results in especially large gains with the same groups where Democrats are underperforming dissatisfaction with Trump the most, including center-right white women (-42 on generic ballot / -7 on climate generic – for a net gain of +35), independents in battleground states (+14 / +47 – net gain of +33), and voters under the age of 35 (+28 / +50, gain of +22).
  • Voters support investing trillions of dollars in clean energy and this support holds up against Republican attacks. Framing these investments as policies that will put people back to work now while providing significant long-term benefits for the country allows Democrats’ positive case for clean energy investments to withstand arguments from Republicans who claim that this policy is part of a “wish-list of socialist policies like the Green New Deal.”
  • Voters are skeptical of Republican claims on not only costs but also hamburgers, cars and airplanes – creating an opening for Democrats to parry these attacks and go on the offensive against Republicans. We tested a robust negative attacking Democrats for supporting climate action and clean energy investments. If not responded to, Republican attacks on climate action (via the Green New Deal) for supposedly costing nearly $100 trillion and necessitating huge new taxes can have power. However, voters are also skeptical about these claims – as well as the even more outlandish claims that Democrats would ban hamburgers, cars, and airplanes.
This creates openings for Democrats to push back against these ridiculous claims, which generate real backlash from voters. When voters were asked to describe Trump and Republicans in three words after hearing a series of counterattacks, the dominant response was “liars,” followed closely by “greedy,” “selfish,” and “corrupt”:
  • After messaging from both sides, Democrats gain with both key swing and base groups – and move key metrics in their favor. As the table below shows, following strong messaging attacks from Trump and Republicans and a set of counterattacks from Democrats, Democrats gain among middle partisans, younger voters and Latinx voters at both the presidential and Congressional level.
Moreover, this balanced exchange of messaging results in Democrats significantly expanding their advantage – when matched against Trump – on key metrics like leaving a better world for future generations and standing up to corporate special interests.
  • And Democrats should not be afraid to lean into environmental justice, particularly with younger voters and voters of color. An environmental justice message against Trump and Republicans that focuses on environmental racism and the higher levels of toxic pollution and dirty air in Black, Latino, and Native American communities which has made them more likely to contract and die from the coronavirus – all the while Trump and Republicans rolled back environmental protections and allowed big energy CEOs to spew even more pollution into communities of color – rises to the top among younger, Latinx, and African American voters and should be a strong focus of communications to these important targets.
Read the full report here.