Likely ’16 voters show support for climate change legislation

The attitudes of many voters on the subject of climate change and global warming appear to shifting.

A poll released Dec. 18 by Harstad Strategic Research Inc. showed that, regardless of party affiliation, likely 2016 presidential election voters will be supporting action on climate change.

Andrew Maxfield, senior vice president of Harstad research, explained during a Dec. 18 phone interview that Harstad measured the attitudes of just over 1,206 potential voters in nine key battleground states — including Virginia and North Carolina.

According to Maxfield, voters in those states were polled between Nov. 18-Nov. 24.

Part of Harstad’s research was measuring attitudes concerning the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan.

“This plan would set the first-ever standards for power plants to limit the amount of carbon pollution they emit,” Maxfield said.

Maxfield said that, across the board, voters in these key states showed significant support for the plan, regardless of party support or affiliation.

In Democrat-leaning states, such as Virginia and New Hampshire, 68 percent of voters polled showed support for the Clean Power Plan.

In Republican-leaning states like North Carolina, 66 percent of voters showed support for the plan.

Two groups that showed the most support for action on climate change, regardless of state or party affiliation, were voters less likely to turn out and voters ages 18-39.

At least 70 percent of voters in both groups showed support for the EPA’s carbon standards.

Maxfield noted that these groups are going to be vital in the upcoming election.

According to the United States Census Bureau, voters ages 18-44 contained the lowest combined turnout of American voters. In 2012, only 38 percent of registered voters ages 18-25 turned out to the election.

“They are important for both [parties] … and the turnout of those voters is a big challenge,” Maxfield said.

Wesley Warren, director of the Center for Policy Advocacy of the NRDC Action Fund, said that these numbers contain an important lesson for both Democrats and Republicans.

That lesson, Warren said, is that “running on this issue is better than running away from it.”

To Maxfield, benefits of candidates coming out strongly and supporting action on climate change “far outweigh the costs.”

Although Warren said that this lesson applies to both parties, it “especially applies to Democrats who will be sorting through what happened in this last election.”

Warren added that this data can also be immediately applied to the upcoming congressional session in January.

“One of the most important implications for the new Republican leadership [in Congress] … is they risk a serious political backlash if they don’t take the lesson from this information,” Warren said.

According to the study, 86 percent to Democrats polled said they want their senator to address climate change, while 43 percent of Republicans state that.

Warren asserted, based on the numbers, that congressmen running “an extreme, anti-environmental” legislation agenda will “quickly find themselves out-of-step, in many cases with their own constituents.”

Warren said that, due to in part to exposure to the same polling data, the political establishment in the Republican Party “have begun to change their rhetoric on climate change.”

“I think plainly they realize that being an outright denier of climate change … is not politically viable,” Warren said.

” … This is very much, in my view, the origin of the phrase, ‘I am not a scientist.'”

According to Warren, in order for Republicans to “get into the right place” on climate change, they “need a plan of action that takes this issue seriously.”

Warren added that “early framing on this issue” is very important to a successful campaign for candidates in both parties.

For Warren and the NRDC, the big takeaway from this data is “that 2016 could look a lot different than 2014.”

“We believe that a different electorate will show up in 2016 … that will be much more interested in supporting candidates that are on the right side of this issue,” Warren said.

Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or

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