When looking at electoral outcomes, it can be hard to know which issues shape partisan preferences and which merely reflect them. It’s tempting for environmentalists to look at their recent successes in the swing state of Virginia and see auspicious signs for the country as a whole. But the actual evidence is inconclusive.
The League of Conservation Voters argues that Terry McAuliffe’s recent victory in Virginia’s gubernatorial race and Tim Kaine’s Senate win last year demonstrate that Virginia’s voters are turning green. Democrats McAuliffe and Kaine both ran on pro–clean energy platforms, and their opponents argued for more fossil fuel extraction. McAuliffe’s opponent, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, is a climate change denier with his head so deep in the sand he has practically dug a hole to China. Kaine’s opponent, former Sen. George Allen, is a front man for the oil industry.
And shortly before the election, LCV released polling data showing that voters in swing states crucial to control of the Senate, including Virginia, overwhelmingly believe in anthropogenic climate change and support the federal government taking action to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.
So, it is easy to see the Virginia results as a referendum on the environment.