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Elections 2020: Climate Is a Voting Issue

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As we approach the 2020 elections, Americans grapple with compounded crises that bring into stark relief our systemic injustices, including structural racism, the COVID-19 pandemic, devastating job losses, and climate change to name a few. Each of these crises is expected to burden most of us, but especially America’s most vulnerable populations. Meanwhile, federal rollbacks of environmental regulations continue to increase, pulling our country in the exact wrong direction. Amidst these challenges, Americans are finding their voice and advocating for change. Between protest signs and polling results, Americans say they want to elect leaders who will bring about needed progress.

But is climate change one of their top priorities this election season? A new American Climate Perspectives Survey by ecoAmerica indicates the answer is yes. It shows that Americans report higher levels of concern about climate change than in past elections, and express a strong desire for elected leaders to work together on solutions. Most disapprove of the recent environmental rollbacks, seeing little personal benefit. And, while the partisan divide on climate is present, alignment among Democrats and Independents shows promise (together they make up the voting majority).

Americans Are More Concerned About Climate Change than in Past Elections

One of ecoAmerica’s key findings shows that going into the 2020 election, 60% of Americans report being more concerned about climate change compared to previous elections. A strong majority (83%) of Democrats report more climate change concern going into the 2020 elections, a notable 23 points higher than the national average. The majority of independents (63%) also feel more concerned about climate change today than in past elections. Only 32% of Republicans, however, report feeling this way.

 

88% of Americans Want Republicans and Democrats to Work Together to Address Climate Change

Although there is some variation on concern about climate change between Democrats and Independents (who indicate higher levels of concern) and Republicans (who indicate lower levels of concern), 88% of Americans agree that Republicans and Democrats should find a way to work together to address climate change. Furthermore, the majority of Americans from all parties agree on this sentiment. When comparing by political party, 80% of Republicans agree that Republicans and Democrats should find a way to work together to address climate change, as do 89% of Independents, and 94% of Democrats.

Partisan Divide on Trump’s Environmental Rollbacks

In the past three years of his presidency,  Trump has signed executive orders reversing over 60 environmental policies with over 30 more in progress, including lowering fuel economy standards, opening offshore drilling, and exiting the Paris Climate Agreement, according to Harvard Law researchers and others. Many Americans disapprove of these rollbacks, including 77% of Democrats and 59% of Independents. Only 20% of Republicans disapprove of these rollbacks (in fact, majorities–68%–approve them), bringing the national disapproval average down to 54%.

Americans See Little Personal Benefit to Environmental Rollbacks  

In addition to Americans disapproving of Trump’s environmental rollbacks, the majority of Americans (64%) believe that these rollbacks benefit corporations over themselves personally (27%) and local communities (29%).  ecoAmerica’s findings show a glimpse of unity between parties, with only a 10-point difference between Democrats (71% believing that rollbacks benefit corporations) and Republicans (61% believing that rollbacks benefit corporations) and even less difference with Independents (65% believe that rollbacks benefit corporations).

 

Full data is available in the accompanying toplines.

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Methodology

ecoAmerica designed and administered this survey, which was conducted online May 5 – May 6, 2020 using Survey Monkey. The survey yielded a total of 816 adult responses. The sample was drawn from an online panel and the respondents were screened to ensure that they were over the age of 18. The margin of error for the sample is +/-3%. In interpreting the survey results, it is important to note that all sample surveys are subject to possible sampling error. Thus, the results of a survey may differ from the results that would be obtained if the entire population was interviewed. The size of the sampling error depends upon both the total number of respondents in the survey and the percentage distribution of the responses to a particular question. For example, if 50% of the respondents in a sample of 816 respondents answered, “Yes” to a particular question, we can be 95% confident that the true percentage would fall within 3 points, or range from 47% to 53%.

Suggested Citation

Speiser, M., Hill, A. (June 2020). American Climate Perspectives Survey 2020. Vol. III: Elections 2020: Climate Is a Voting Issue. ecoAmerica. Washington, DC.

© 2020 ecoAmerica.  The contents of this report may be shared and used under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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