Coronavirus and its economic fallout are dominating our zeitgeist today, but climate is right up there with 2020 voters, including 11% who list climate as their number 1 issue, and they are coming out to vote early, according to a recent NPR/Marist poll. Considering how tight this election is expected to be, those climate-focused voters could be the deciding factor in this election, especially since they include first-time-environment-focused voters.
Nathaniel Stinnett, Founder of the nonprofit Environmental Voter Project (EVP) reports that 360,348 early votes from these first-time-climate-focused voters have been cast, including tens of thousands in the battleground states of Arizona, Florida (over 100K voters), Pennsylvania, Nevada and North Carolina.
The climate-first-focused voters include 22% who favor Democrats, and 14% of “small city/suburban women,” according to the NPR/Marist pol. Since 28% of college-educated women are focused on the climate first, according to this research, the difference between Biden’s ambitious clean energy economy-climate plans and Trump’s rollbacks of environmental regulations and support for the fossil fuel industry could not be starker.
Trump’s appeals to “suburban women” are not likely to resonate either, because 14% of them put climate first in the NPR/Marist research – not to mention that he talks to these ambitious, working women about “jobs for your husbands,” demonstrating how little he understands them.
42% of all voters say climate is “very important”
Pew Research found that 42% of all voters – Republicans, Democrats and Independents – said the climate is “very important” to their vote, even if they didn’t make it the number one issue. Covid- healthcare and the economy took the top spots on their priority lists.
Furthermore, 65% of women supporting Biden say climate is “very important” and an additional 24% say climate is “somewhat important” to their vote, totaling a whopping 89% reflecting that climate is likely a top driver of their vote. Even 14% and 32% of women supporting Trump say climate is “very” or “somewhat” important.
With control of Congress on the line this election, as well as the presidency, Data For Progress research found that climate is a priority for voters focused on House and Senate seats up for grabs as well. Their report said, “Voters in the key senate battleground states of Arizona, Iowa, Maine, and North Carolina support a broad range of climate policies and are more likely to support candidates that pledge bold climate action.” They included “investing in clean energy infrastructure, eliminating carbon emissions from the power sector by 2035, and guaranteeing funds for frontline communities that are most affected by climate change and pollution” in their priorities, Data for Progress said. Adding that these “could bridge the gap for Democrats winning back the Senate and White House.”
It all depends on who actually shows up to vote.
So far, over 73 million people have voted across the country, with 34.1 million of them in battleground states, and we still have five days to go before voting stops (as of this writing). Then we count mail-in votes too. States are reporting 39.5 million mail-in ballots requested not yet cast, according to the U.S. Elections Project (as of this writing).
The U.S. Elections Project also reports that 47.1 of early votes are from Democrats, 29.6 % are from Republicans, and 22.7% are “no party affiliation.” Republicans tell pollsters they are more likely to vote on Election Day in person, and a millions of Democrats will as well.
Will women focused on climate, as well as covid-19 and the economy, tip the scale?
You’ve likely seen a lot of data from TargetSmart, if you’re watching election coverage. Greg Sargent, columnist for The Washington Post, spoke with their CEO, Tom Bonier, who said, “It’s an entirely different electorate.”
In a country that has historically had relatively low turnout – an average of about 55% since 1932 – the 2020 election may transform the voting system permanently, because it has made voting so much more accessible to more voters. “Groups that tend to have more hurdles to participating will see the biggest increases,” Bonier told Sargent, “It’s a radical reshuffling of how people are able to vote.”
It’s also the first time climate is truly on the ballot, having reached such a strong positioning in people’s voting choices, and the first time so many millions of women are especially fired up.
So, women voters prioritizing climate may well tip the scale this election.
Please vote and pack your patience, both in the voting line and as states count the votes.