MEMO: Democrats Listened to the American People, Becoming the Party of Climate Action
To: Interested Parties
From: Climate Power
Re: MEMO: Democrats Listened to the American People, Becoming the Party of Climate Action
President Biden and the majority in Congress are on the verge of passing the most significant climate change legislation in history and delivering on their promises to the American people. Passing the Build Back Better Act into law would give Americans the critical investments needed to create millions of good paying jobs, cut pollution that is fueling climate disasters, lower energy costs for working families and begin to bring justice to communities on the frontline of climate change. We are so close to this transformational moment because moderate and progressive Democratic members of Congress speak in a clear, consistent voice on the need for climate action.
The urgency to act on climate is now a shared goal for Democratic members.
Democratic unity comes at a crucial policy moment with a critical midterm election lurking just around the corner. The last time a Democratic majority in both chambers of Congress debated climate legislation with a member of their party in the White House was in 2009. And looking back it is clear that history is not repeating itself: 2021 is not 2009. In 2009, the ‘Blue Dog Caucus’ didn’t support cap & trade, in fact, most voted no. People remember the summer of 2009 for the rise of the Tea Party and a coordinated, intense opposition to President Obama. In 2021, the summer was dominated by demands for immediate climate action as millions of people suffered through extreme weather. The Build Back Better agenda came into August popular with the public, and left August just as popular.
That’s why Democratic members of Congress — moderates and progressives — representing every part of the country, are pushing for immediate climate investments. We collected comments members recently made that illustrate how widespread this belief is. It’s the right thing to do, but it’s also the politically smart thing to do. At every level of government, Democratic candidates and legislators recognize that people see climate change as an urgent threat, and are meeting those needs by delivering specific solutions.
Here is a walk through in just how much public opinion has upended the politics of climate:
Rising Concern About The Crisis
The severity of climate-driven disasters has increased dramatically, Americans no longer see climate change as an abstract problem, it’s on their doorstep. New polling data from the Yale Center For Climate Communications found that concern over climate change has shot to a record high in the past six months, with the percentage of those “very worried” increased 10 points since March. For the first time in Yale’s research, a majority (55%) of Americans agree that climate change is harming people in the US “right now.” It’s not just at the national level either. Yale found this concern extends down to the Congressional districts key in determining which party gets the majority next year.
This year’s dramatic surge in concern builds on a shift in public awareness over the past decade. The major debate over cap and trade took place in a world in which Gallup Research found that a bare majority of Americans—51 percent—reported that they personally worried about climate change. In the same survey from 2021, 65 percent are worried about it.
These rising levels of concern are directly shaping voters’ political and electoral preferences. For several years, YouGovAmerica’s poll has shown voters rating climate change increasingly high in their list of priorities, and their most recent survey found that climate change was the 2nd most important issue for U.S. voters—2 percentage points ahead of the economy.
Climate Change Policies are Very Popular In Frontline Districts
The groundbreaking analysis from the Yale Center for Climate Communications follows recent confirmation that people want specific policy solutions. They want what the Build Back Better Act offers. Climate Power joined with Data For Progress to run a poll of eight key frontline districts in late September 2021 and found that majorities of voters support the $3.5 trillion Build Back Better plan in each, even when presented with talking points from the other side.
While pundits worry that voters in frontline districts want less ambitious legislation, data show the opposite. A majority of voters in each district surveyed think that the $3.5 trillion level of investment should be increased or maintained.
Climate is especially important to these voters, and over sixty percent (60%) of voters in each district also agree, specifically, that it is important that Congress makes these investments to address climate change and extreme weather, create clean energy jobs, and reduce pollution.
This is backed up by other research as well. This week, a poll conducted by ALG Research for NRDC Action Fund found that voters that Democrats need to turn out in the midterm elections want the full Build Back Better agenda and would be less enthusiastic about voting if climate change is not addressed.
Crucially, voters in each district—including two-thirds of Democrats—say they are less likely to vote for a candidate who opposes the Build Back Better plan.
Where did this take place? Climate Power’s poll was conducted in Arizona’s 1st District, Florida’s 7th District, Georgia’s 7th District, Iowa’s 3rd District, Maine’s 2nd District, Michigan’s 8th District, New York’s 4th District, and New Jersey’s 5th District.
Poll After Poll Shows Support For Climate Provisions In The Build Back Better Act
The Climate Power/Data for Progress findings are not just a flash in the pan result either. Recent polling from Hart Research’s Geoff Garin found that 58% of voters polled across 24 battleground House districts support the investments of the Build Back Better Act. Previous statewide polls in the key Senate states of AZ, CO, GA, NV, and NH found that the bill was strongly supported by voters there, 59% of whom agreed that Congress should either keep the cost at the current proposed level or increase the cost so the legislation can do more.
The bottomline: Democrats are now a party of climate action. If the Build Back Better Act succeeds, it will be because they responded to a clarion call from Americans everywhere to do something about the crisis at their doorstep.