Why Democrats are disappointed with climate change

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Month-long efforts by Senate Democrats to negotiate a budget reconciliation bill with ambitious climate change provisions crumbled last week when Sen. Joe Manchin announced he would not support the bill. It now seems unlikely that Congress will pass substantive environmental legislation before this year’s midterm elections. And although President Biden issued executive orders on Wednesday to tackle climate change — and is expected to announce more in the coming days — activists have criticized those measures as not going far enough.

This lack of action on climate change is becoming a real problem for Democrats, because it’s something their constituents really want. In mid-January, the Pew Research Center asked Americans which of 18 issues should be a top priority for Congress and the president, and 65% of Democrats picked climate change, ranking it their fourth most important issue. .

For the most part, Democrats overwhelmingly support the Biden administration’s climate change policies: 79%, according to a Pew survey in early May, said Biden’s environmental policies were getting the country into the right direction. direction. The problem is, even among Democrats who approve of the Biden administration’s approach, three in five (61%) still think the administration could do more — and that was even before Manchin torpedoed the latest efforts. environmental policy of the Democrats.

This has created a situation where Democrats, above all the youngest, are dissatisfied with the way climate change is tackled. Younger Americans from both parties are more likely than older Americans to see climate change as a top priority, and in May’s Pew poll, younger Democrats were also more likely to say the Biden administration should do more. . Nearly three-quarters (73%) of American adults under 30 said the administration should do more, compared with 54% of those over 65 who said the same.

Why haven’t Democratic politicians done more to prioritize this issue, given its importance to Democratic voters? Climate change is simply not a priority issue for other Americans.

For example, even though climate change was a top priority for Democrats in January’s Pew poll, it was only the 14th most important issue for voters overall. That’s partly because Republicans don’t prioritize climate change: Only 11% said it should be a top priority for Congress and the president, compared to 65% of Democrats. In fact, climate change has been the more polarizing issue that Pew has been asking about — even more so than opinions on handling the COVID-19 outbreak.

In Pew’s most recent poll, Republicans were also very likely to disapprove of the Biden administration’s handling of climate change. Eighty-two percent said the Biden administration’s climate policies were leading the country in the wrong direction. Notably, however, this was less true among younger Republicans, who are more likely than their older counterparts to prioritize climate change. In fact, 47% of Republicans under 30 said the federal government isn’t doing enough for the environment.

This means that, practically, there is a very limited set of climate change policies where we see bipartisan agreement. Of five climate change-specific policy issues Pew asked about in May, only two garnered support from a majority of Democrats and Republicans: a proposal to plant trees to absorb carbon emissions and a proposal to grant tax credits to companies that develop methods to store or capture carbon emissions.

Ultimately, that makes passing substantial climate change policy, like what Democrats hoped to push through Congress this summer, an almost insurmountable challenge — especially when a party-line vote hangs. of support from someone like Manchin, a longtime challenger to sweeping climate change reform.

So where does that leave the many Democrats who think climate change is a key priority? Largely disillusioned and cynical, according to a poll conducted in late January by Pew: 51% of Democrats said they did not think the United States and other countries would do enough to fight climate change, and among the Liberal Democrats alone, that share ticked up to 60 percent. Climate change is a very important issue for Democrats, but it’s not an issue that resonates as deeply for others.

Other polls

  • Vanilla reigns supreme as the nation’s best ice cream flavor, according to a YouGov poll conducted July 13-18. In a multiple-choice question, 59% of American adults said they like vanilla, chocolate (51%), strawberry (43%) and cookies and cream (43%) rounding out the top four. In terms of toppings, hot fudge was the most popular, at 40%, while 41% said they preferred their ice cream in a cup or bowl over a waffle (33%) or sugar cone (12%) .
  • Thirty-eight percent of Americans believe that a lack of childcare options very often prevents mothers who would like to work outside the home from doing so, according to a July 15 poll from YouGov. Meanwhile, a second question from YouGov reveals that only 13% of Americans say the same barrier exists very often for fathers.
  • Most Americans (58%) are “just a little confident” or “not at all confident” that the country’s elections reflect the will of its citizens, according to a CNN/SSRS poll conducted from June 13 to July 13. This share has continued to increase. since January 2021, when only 40% said the same. Overall, nearly half of American adults think it is somewhat (33%) or very likely (14%) that their elected politicians will “successfully overturn” election results in response to losing their seat. left.
  • More bad news for the news: trust in the media continues to fall to an all-time low, according to a Gallup poll from June 1-20. Only 16% of Americans said they trust newspapers “a lot” or “a lot”, while only 11% said the same about television news. Newspapers were the most trusted in 1979 (51%), six years after Gallup first posed the question on this platform, while trust in broadcast journalism peaked in 1993, the first year Gallup also launched investigations for TV news. Today, nearly half of Americans say they have little or no confidence in print (46%) or broadcast (53%) information.

Biden endorsement

According to FiveThirtyEight’s presidential endorsement tracker, 37.5% of Americans approve of the job Biden is doing as president, while 57.2% disapprove (a net approval rating of -19.7 percentage points) . At the same time last week, 38.7% approved and 56.0% disapproved (a net approval rating of -17.3 points). A month ago, Biden had an approval rating of 39.6% and a disapproval rating of 54.8%, for a net approval rating of -15.2 points.

Generic Ballot

In our generic Congressional polling average, Republicans currently lead by 1.1 points (44.3% to 43.2%). A week ago, the Republicans were ahead of the Democrats by 1.8 points (44.8% against 43.1%). This time last month, voters preferred Republicans by 2.2 points (44.7% to 42.5%).

Teresa H. Sadler