MEMO: To Win in November, Democrats (And Republicans) Need Climate-Motivated Voters

TO:           Interested Parties
FROM:    John Podesta and Lori Lodes, Climate Power 2020
RE:           To Win in November, Democrats (And Republicans) Need
                   Climate-Motivated Voters

The politics of climate have changed.

Poll, after poll, shows voters are ready for leaders to take on the climate crisis — and ready to punish candidates who refuse to act. And with critical voting blocs — suburban women, young people, and Latinos — support for bold climate action can not only win over swing voters but motivate new voters to come to the polls.

It’s why Joe Biden is campaigning on bold climate action and giving climate action center stage in his campaign messaging. The campaign has run ads about the importance of clean energy to tackle the climate crisis and build back our economy, he took his Corvette out for a spin to talk about electric vehicles, and he selected Kamala Harris, an environmental justice champion and supporter of the Green New Deal, to be his running mate. Instead of running away from climate, the Biden-Harris campaign is taking on the fight to address climate change.

The Trump campaign doesn’t understand that the politics of climate have changed. And that is an electoral problem for him. Voters think climate change is a serious crisis the president must address and they do not trust him on climate and the environment.

There is perhaps no point more illustrative of Trump’s dangerously out-of-touch agenda than his decision announced Monday to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. As Democrats will digitally gather to promote clean energy jobs and new solutions to the climate crisis, Trump instead is opening up one of America’s most pristine wilderness areas for Big Oil.

An April Yale Program on Climate Change Communication survey found voters are 55 percent less likely to vote for a presidential candidate who opposes taking action on climate and moderate Republicans are 35 percentage points less likely to vote for a candidate opposing action. A March 2020 poll from Climate Power 2020 found that critiquing Trump’s record on climate increases Trump’s disapproval among GOP-leaning persuadable voters, and increases motivation to vote by younger voters by 12 percentage points and Hispanic voters by 9 percentage points.

Put simply: Climate is a top issue among the voters who will determine this election — Republican-leaning suburban women, youth voters, and voters of color. For President Trump to secure a second term, he needs to dampen support for Biden among younger Americans and voters of color, while Biden needs to appeal to independent voters — chiefly women — who swung from Obama to Trump in 2016 to win.

Still, Democrats can’t ignore the enthusiasm younger, Black, and Latino voters have for climate action if they are to be successful in winning their support in November. Much of the Democratic base has written off Trump and are unlikely to support a Republican congressional candidate. The risk with these voters–particularly younger voters and Latino voters–is that they either skip the election or “drop-off” the ballot after voting in the presidential race.

If these voters don’t hear Democrats talking about this issue, they won’t believe it is a priority for them. So while Democrats will unquestionably be more trusted than Republicans on tackling the issue of climate change, Democratic base voters need to believe that Democrats actually will do something about this crisis.