In Close Midterm Races, Climate Helped Push Democrats To Victory
Democrats Won Partly by Blasting Big Oil and Highlighting Passage of Historic Climate Legislation
WASHINGTON, DC – In an election determined by tight margins, the contrast between Democrats’ action on climate change and Republican lies about it helped deliver wins for Democrats. Pro-climate Democrats successfully mobilized young, Black, and Latino voters using targeted ad campaigns. Climate Power Action and allied groups lent major muscle to the effort with $135 million in election spending, including ads touting the climate benefits of the Inflation Reduction Act. Bucking conventional wisdom, Democrats also went on offense against Republicans on high gas prices, placing the blame squarely on Big Oil’s profiteering. As a result, Democrats retained control of the Senate, and exit polls showed that voters ranked climate change a top three issue facing the country.
“Candidates that ran on the Inflation Reduction Act and its climate investments won in a highly competitive environment,” said Climate Power Executive Director Lori Lodes. “That is far cry from 2010, when Republicans ran against cap and trade. The politics of climate have changed, and the unprecedented results of this election show that the American people demand bold action from their elected leaders. Candidates that deliver climate wins will have an edge in future elections that may prove decisive.”
Last week President Biden declared that young voters decided this election, saying “they voted to continue addressing the climate crisis, gun violence, their personal rights and freedoms, and student debt relief.” Exit poll data support his claims, with voters under 30 making up 1 in 8 voters in 2022, and 63% of them voting for Democrats to represent them in the House. In the most competitive states, youth voter turnout was a historic 27%, and leaned heavily Democratic in key Senate races like Nevada (64%) and Arizona (76%).
Climate and clean energy featured heavily in the ad spends of several tightly contested races, bucking conventional wisdom:
- Ads run by Climate Power Action reached enough voters to make a major impact on the outcomes. The ads reached over 110,000 voters in Nevada, where the Senate race is being decided by fewer than 10,000 votes. The targeted voters of our IE’s digital ad and mail campaign were predominantly young, Black, and Latino voters—and at risk of not voting without additional outreach.
- Overall, Democrats and aligned groups massively outspent the opposition on positive climate ads in Nevada and Colorado, by a 13 to 1 and 2 to 1 margin, respectively, according to AdImpact data.
- In Nevada, 17% of all Democrat-aligned ads featured climate and energy issues according to AdImpact, and Sen. Cortez Masto’s first ad touted the economic benefits of the Inflation Reduction Act’s clean energy tax credits.
- Sen. Bennet cruised to victory after featuring climate and energy issues in 25% of his ads.
In the final weeks of the election, Democrats went on offense against Big Oil, calling out their profiteering and how artificially high gas prices hurt working people. This was a winning strategy:
- Sen.-elect John Fetterman was an early champion of a populist message targeting profiteering by wealthy oil and gas executives, declaring, “It’s gross, and deeply unpatriotic, for the big corporations to be rolling around in cash while charging us record high prices for gas and groceries.”
- Sen. Cortez Masto ran ads attacking Laxalt’s ties to Big Oil and blaming their price gouging for high gas prices.
- Sen. Mark Kelly ran ads attacking Big Oil profiteering and promising to crack down on the practice.
- In a highly publicized debate moment, Sen. Maggie Hassan accused her opponent of “singing Big Oil’s song,” declaring “he stands with Big Oil to give them billions of dollars of tax breaks, which costs taxpayers all of you money.”
- In a stand-out moment during the sole debate Sen. Michael Bennet, called out Republican extremist Joe O’Dea’s misguided priorities, saying: “You’ve been crying over and over again about the condition of the oil and gas industry. You started off the debate, saying that today. This week we learned that they […] have got record profits at Exxon, record profits at Shell and they’re using those record profits not to help consumers here in Colorado pay at that pump, not to help on diesel, but to buy back stocks, to do financial engineering. You should join me. I have a bill that says they have to pay a windfall tax.”