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Study shows voters are increasingly seeing climate change as an important issue

A man hides under what little shade was available, Friday, July 14, 2023 in Las Vegas.
Ty O'Neil
Associated Press
A man hides under what little shade was available, Friday, July 14, 2023 in Las Vegas. As temperatures rise and the effects of climate change become more apparent, a study shows a majority of people prefer to vote for a candidate who supports “action on global warming.”

With our region and most of the nation under an extreme heat dome — and as the first presidential debate nears — a new study shows climate is increasingly becoming a major concern for voters.

The study, called “Climate Change in the American Mind”, shows a majority of people prefer to vote for a candidate who supports “action on global warming.” But the sentiment in our region is most prominent among liberals and less of a concern for conservatives.

But there’s one exception that crosses party lines, said Professor Edward Maibach, director of George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change, which was one of the groups involved in the study.

“Younger voters feel much more strongly about this issue than do their parents' generation and their grandparents' generation,” Maibach said. “And that is especially true of young Republican voters — they are much more likely than their parents and grandparents to be concerned about this.”

Overall, Maibach says elected officials and candidates underestimate support for climate action.

“The American people are pretty clear they'd like to see a rapid transition to clean energy because they feel it's the right thing to do for their children and their grandchildren and because they understand it's the healthier thing to do,” he said.

But this issue is dividing Republican candidates, with moderates wanting to address it but extreme conservatives typically respond by denying that climate change exists. Maibach said both presidential candidates have shown very different perspectives on how they view climate change.

For example, Maibach said that President Biden has created clean energy policies during his time in office, while Donald Trump has pushed back against clean energy and diminished the effects of climate change.

The study shows 86% of voters support what they call “climate justice goals”, such as creating more parks and green spaces within low-income communities.

“It signals that a majority of Americans understand that we're not all living in equal conditions and that low-income communities and communities of color are often harmed first and worst by climate change,” Maibach said.

Another aspect that cuts across political party lines is corporate responsibility. According to the study, 8 out of 10 voters say publicly traded corporations should disclose how much carbon pollution they produce and how it affects their bottom line.

“The fact that so many Americans across the political continuum would like to see that happen is another area which I think this poll suggests that the policymakers should be looking at for policies that will make a substantial difference to address global warming,” said Maibach.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio (KNPR) in Las Vegas, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, KUNC in Colorado and KANW in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Yvette Fernandez is the regional reporter for the Mountain West News Bureau. She joined Nevada Public Radio in September 2021.