MEMO: New youth voter polling shows climate is a motivating issue, but there’s more work to be done

To: Interested Parties

From: Climate Power and Climate Emergency Advocates (CEA)

Date: November 29, 2023

Re: New youth voter polling shows climate is a motivating issue, but there’s more work to be done.

A new poll from the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning at Tufts University (CIRCLE), supported by Climate Power and Climate Emergency Advocates (CEA), shows that addressing the climate crisis is a deciding issue for young people in the 2024 election. The findings present an opportunity for Democrats – many climate voters don’t know about the historic climate legislation President Biden and Democrats passed last year. One eye-popping number: a crucial portion of climate voters (36%) say they have read, seen, or heard “nothing at all” or “not much” about the federal government’s actions regarding climate and the environment. Young people who are concerned about climate change are more motivated to show up and vote, and while they support climate legislation that President Biden has already passed, they want further action to combat climate change. Democrats must focus on showing voters what they’ve accomplished and what they plan to do in 2024.

Young people who chose addressing climate change as one of their top concerns were 20 points more likely than those who did not to say they’re extremely likely to vote in 2024 and more likely to engage in various forms of political action. Climate is a winning issue for Democrats and candidates must highlight President Biden’s clean energy plan that will combat climate change while lowering costs for consumers and creating hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs. 

Youth voters who care about climate change but don’t think Biden has done enough in large part because they have not heard about his accomplishments should be considered low-hanging fruit for Democrats. With enough work and communication, we can win an extremely high number of these voters – but their support will need to be earned.

Voters need to know that climate action and a strong economy go hand in hand. President Biden’s climate plan has already helped create more than 210,000 jobs, and that’s just the beginning. While young people’s views and actions on social issues like abortion and gun violence often garner the most attention and remain highly salient, young people are sending a clear message that their primary concern is the economy. 

Significantly, 72% of voters who care about climate say they are “extremely likely” to vote in 2024, compared to 57% of youth overall. This figure shows that climate is a motivating issue in the 2024 election. 

In a sign of both the opportunity and challenge ahead for Democrats: 37% of youth voters would vote for the Democratic candidate and 25% for the Republican candidate, with 7% for a third-party option and 31% undecided. Communication is going to be critically important to solidify these numbers.

Democrats have the upper hand with young voters, especially those who care about climate. But a year out from the election, that margin could slip if candidates, including President Biden, don’t emphasize the historic progress they’ve made on climate, good paying jobs, and all the progress yet to come.