A new poll released this week reveals that most Republican voters recognize the threat of climate change and that humans contribute to it. The majority of conservative Republicans agree. And nearly three-quarters of party voters favor “taking action” to foster clean energy.
For several years now, NRDC Action Fund analysis has shown that candidates who champion clean energy and climate action are more likely to win their races. In the past, those winners tended to be Democrats, since so few Republicans engaged on the issue.
The new poll confirms that Republican candidates can run on climate change and win their races too.
The survey was conducted by three leading GOP pollsters and funded by Jay Faison, an entrepreneur and self-described Christian conservative from Charlotte, North Carolina. They found that 56 percent of Republicans believe in climate change and the vast majority support clean energy solutions. A full 87 percent of conservatives favor tax incentives for homeowners who feed solar power back into the grid.
These views influence how people cast their ballots. Sixty-three percent of Independents, for instance, would rather vote for a candidate who supports strong federal limits on carbon pollution than a candidate who says, “The science around climate change is not at all clear, so the government should focus on more important issues.”
Other polls have found similar results. About half of GOP voters say they are more likely to favor a candidate who wants to address the climate challenge, according to a New York Times/Stanford poll. And nearly three-quarters of Republican voters say they support government limits on carbon pollution, a Washington Post/ABC News poll found.
Voters of both parties are looking for leadership on this issue. They see extreme weather pummeling communities–from prolonged drought in California to heavy rains in the Midwest and record-breaking fires in the Pacific Northwest. They also see wind farms and solar panels spreading across the landscape, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs and generating pollution-free power.
Most Americans embrace candidates who tackle the climate threat and promote clean energy solutions. Democratic voters have rewarded these candidates in the past three election cycles, and Republican voters seem poised to do the same. The trouble is their leaders haven’t gotten the message yet.
Jeb Bush released an energy plan on Tuesday that ignored climate change and failed to mention renewable power. Ben Carson, Donald Trump, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz have refused to say climate change is caused by humans. And only one GOP presidential candidate–Bobby Jindal–has offered specific plans for cutting carbon pollution. Republican leaders in Congress, meanwhile, attack climate action and clean energy incentives at every turn.
These positions are out of step with most Republican voters, but they suit influential donors from the fossil fuel industry. The Koch brothers alone have vowed to spend $889 million on the 2016 cycle, and they adamantly oppose government measures to address climate change.
Candidates who persist in climate denial and paralysis may attract hefty donations, but they will soon start alienating the many Republicans who care about energy security, clean air, economic opportunity and a stable future for their children.
It’s time for GOP candidates to recognize that addressing climate change isn’t just good public policy, it’s good politics.