Why Democrats Are Disillusioned Over Climate Change – FiveThirtyEight

by | Jul 22, 2022 | Climate Change

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Senate Democrats’ monthslong effort to negotiate a budget reconciliation bill with ambitious climate change provisions crumbled last week when Sen. Joe Manchin announced he wouldn’t back the proposed legislation. It now appears unlikely that Congress will pass any substantive environmental legislation ahead of this year’s midterm elections. And although President Biden did issue some executive orders on Wednesday to address 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, as it’s something their voters really want. In mid-January, the Pew Research Center asked Americans which among 18 issues should be a top priority for Congress and the president to address, and 65 percent of Democrats selected climate change, ranking it as their fourth-most-important issue.

For the most part, Democrats overwhelmingly support the Biden administration’s policies combating climate change: 79 percent, per a survey conducted by Pew in early May, said Biden’s environmental policies were moving the country in the right direction. The problem is that, even among Democrats who approve of the Biden administration’s approach, three in five (61 percent) still think the administration could be doing more — and this was even before Manchin torpedoed Democrats’ latest environmental policy efforts.

This has created a situation where Democrats, especially younger ones, are dissatisfied with how climate change is being addressed. Younger Americans of both parties are more likely than older Americans to rate climate change as a top priority, and in the Pew poll from May, younger Democrats were also more likely to say that the Biden administration should be doing more. Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of U.S. adults under 30 said the administration should be doing more, compared with 54 percent 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 just isn’t an issue other Americans prioritize.

For instance, even though climate change was a top priority for Democrats in the January Pew poll, it was only the 14th-most-important issue for voters overall. That’s in part because Republicans do not prioritize climate change: Just 11 percent said it should be a top priority for Congress and the president, compared with 65 percent of Democrats. In fact, climate change was the most polarizing issue Pew asked about — even more so than views on dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak.

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