2021 In Review: Climate Power Polling Memo

Looking Ahead to 2022 Elections, Voters Think Climate Action Is Imperative

As the fight continues to pass the Build Back Better Act, and with the midterms just over the horizon, here are five key trends we observed from 2021 that will impact 2022.

1. Voters are increasingly concerned about the impacts of climate change and extreme weather.

From ice storms in Texas to record rainfall in New Jersey to infernos and drought in the West, countless extreme weather events impacted Americans from coast to coast. The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication observed a dramatic increase in the share of Americans who are worried about climate change. Data for Progress and Climate Power found that over three-quarters of all voters (78 percent), including majorities of Democrats, Independents, and Republicans, think that future generations will be more impacted by climate change. An overwhelming 83 percent of voters under 45 express this concern.

2. Though President Biden’s approval rating has dipped, support for the Build Back Better plan — and climate investments — has held steady.

Building upon his campaign pledge to “Build Back Better,” in spring 2021, President Biden introduced the sweeping American Jobs Plan to combat the climate crisis, rebuild America’s crumbling infrastructure, cut costs for families, and create millions of new, good-paying jobs. While many of the infrastructure elements of the American Jobs Plan were included in the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that was signed into law in November, key climate and clean energy provisions were folded into the Build Back Better framework that has yet to pass Congress. 

While President Biden’s approval rating has decreased significantly since the start of 2021, support for Biden’s climate and social-spending plans has remained remarkably consistent. Data for Progress and Climate Power polling on the Build Back Better plan in March, April, June, and October of this year found widespread support for the plan when voters are informed of its investments in climate and clean energy. Other pollsters, such as Monmouth University, have observed a similar trend.


3. Climate change is a winning issue. 

Climate change has become a core issue in the Democratic Party. As congressional negotiations over the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the Build Back Better plan reached a fever pitch, Data for Progress and Climate Power surveyed voters in eight frontline congressional districts to assess voters’ opinions toward climate action. We found that a majority of voters in each district — including voters in toss-up districts like IA-03, ME-02, and AZ-01 — said it was important for Congress to make additional investments beyond the bipartisan infrastructure bill to combat climate change and create clean energy jobs.

4. Voters want to transition to cheap and reliable clean energy. 

Throughout fall 2021, Americans started feeling pain at the pump as global energy prices rose. Amid concerns around rising energy prices, Data for Progress and Climate Power found that voters widely support investments in clean energy. Moreover, we found that some of the Build Back Better plan’s most popular climate and clean energy proposals are those that impact energy prices. Among the policies that voters think are most important to pass are investments to improve energy efficiency, subsidies for new clean energy projects, lowering the costs of electric vehicles for consumers, and phasing out subsidies for fossil fuels. 

5. Lawmakers should embrace Build Back Better to deliver tangible wins for their constituents.

Democrats face an uphill battle to retain their congressional majority in 2022 if they don’t deliver on climate priorities. However, passing the Build Back Better plan will deliver what voters want and allow lawmakers to champion these critical victories to their constituents. Data for Congress and Climate Power found that nearly all Democrats (86 percent) and over half of Independents (55 percent) are more likely to back a congressional candidate who supports the Build Back Better plan over a candidate who opposes it.

Lawmakers in Congress must respond to this critical climate moment and pass the Build Back Better Act immediately. Voters will cast their ballots based on legislators’ ability to get climate action done heading into the midterms. As Data for Progress and Climate Power observed throughout 2021, the politics of climate have changed and voters across party lines are growing more concerned about the impacts of climate change. Moreover, climate action has increasingly become a pillar among the voters who delivered President Biden his victory in 2020. Our leaders cannot afford to wait to act, and they should heed the demands of the electorate to take action on climate change.