Want to win over young voters? Get serious about climate action
We millennials may not have our shit together when it comes to our own individual futures (and whose fault is that, exactly?), but we’re pretty sharp when it comes to the future of humankind. Two-thirds of us accept the reality of human-caused climate change, according to a poll [PDF] conducted by a bipartisan pair of political strategy groups for the League of Conservation Voters.
Even some of those who reject the “human-caused” part apparently think we might as well do something about it anyway: A whopping 80 percent of voters ages 18-34 support Obama’s recently announced plan for climate action — including 56 percent of the young voters who say they aren’t fans of the president in general.
Our preference for reality comes at a political cost to those still living in a parallel universe. The poll found that 73 percent of the youngs say they’re less likely to vote for a legislator who opposes the president’s plan. Fifty-two percent of self-identified young Republicans said the same thing. (They’re a dwindling group, anyway — only 23 percent of Americans under 35 call themselves Republican).
Climate deniers, to our eyes, basically resemble the village idiots. Seventy-three percent of poll respondents chose the words “ignorant,” “out of touch,” or simply “crazy” to describe deniers. (“Independent,” “commonsense,” and “thoughtful” were the other options.) Two-thirds of independent young voters say they’d be less likely to vote for a denier.
And, as evidence that we millennials have some capacity for critical thought beneath our tattooed exteriors, the poll reports that we’re not buying the phony arguments the GOP has set up to turn voters against Obama’s planned efforts on climate: Sixty-five percent of us believe taking action on climate would create jobs, not kill them.
I wondered if the fact that the poll was sponsored by the League of Conservation Voters might have skewed its results. But the arguments for and against climate action it asked voters to choose between seemed to me like pretty accurate portrayals of real-life talking points. Here’s how the pollsters described them:
60% would vote for someone who says we have a moral obligation to leave behind a planet that’s not polluted or damaged. But carbon pollution is already causing asthma attack rates to double and increasing floods, heat waves, and droughts put farmers out of business and raise food prices. We set limits for arsenic and mercury, but we let power plants release as much carbon pollution as they want. It’s time to deal with climate change by limiting carbon pollution from power plants, investing in clean energy, and taking responsible steps to protect public health.
35% would vote for someone who says we cannot afford burdensome regulations and new energy taxes when millions of Americans are out of work and the cost of gas and groceries continues to rise. With the evidence on global warming mixed, we shouldn’t throw billions of dollars into unproven solutions while we continue to restrict the use of affordable, domestic energy sources. We should focus on getting the economy moving again rather than being distracted by issues like climate change. Now is not the time to shutter power plants, destroy good-paying American jobs, and raise electricity bills for struggling families.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that there’s such broad acceptance of climate reality within our generation. Like gay marriage, climate is an issue for which divisions increasingly fall along an age spectrum more than anything else. Cohort replacement — the idea that climate deniers and bigots will shrink in number as older generations die off — sounds harsh, but for me, it’s sometimes the only thing that keeps me optimistic. Just wait til the millennials run things, I tell myself when I start to gag on political horseshit.
Until we actually start running for office, though, we sure as hell better take these great ideals of ours to the voting booth.