How Republicans are losing young voters
The Republican Party, under President Trump, faces many challenges: it is losing female voters, seniors, and suburbanites, to name a few.
Add to these another cohort that differs from the GOP: Young people for whom climate change is a central issue. "Young people see the Republican Party as an anti-climate party," Benji Backer, founder of the American Conservation Coalition, told Yahoo Finance on our latest electionomics podcast. “This is not good news for the Republican Party now, but especially not good news for the Republican Party in the future. And worse, it's really bad for the environment because we actually need both sides of the table to get things done. "
Backer is a 22-year-old University of Washington graduate who says he grew up a conservative political activist when he knocked on the doors of Republican presidential candidate John McCain at the age of 10 in 2008. He founded the coalition for promoting market-based approaches to combat climate change and a voice for young voters who have to grapple with the consequences of a warming planet longer than their parents and grandparents.
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But Backer isn't sure whether he will vote for Trump or his Democratic rival Joe Biden. Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement and promoted fossil fuels while making fun of renewable energy sources like wind. Trump's list of priorities for a second term includes no mention of climate or the environment.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., To address the Closing Ceremony of the Road to the Green New Deal Tour at Howard University in Washington on Monday, May 13, 2019. (AP Photo / Cliff Owen)
Biden has an elaborate climate change plan with key goals such as eliminating carbon pollution from the energy sector by 2035 and emitting nationwide carbon after carbon sequestration by 2050. These are aggressive goals that many climate activists like. But Biden would rely heavily on spending, new laws, and government enforcement. Some conservatives want a lighter approach where the government incentivizes the private sector to find innovative solutions to the problem. Dozens of prominent economists, including four former Federal Reserve chairmen and 27 Nobel Prize winners, have called for a carbon tax as the most efficient and effective way to fight global warming.
According to the Pew Research Center, two-thirds of Americans say the government is not doing enough to address climate change. Democrats are more concerned than Republicans, but a slim majority of Republicans support new efforts to address the problem, such as tighter emissions restrictions from energy plans.
Not surprisingly, young Americans are more aware of climate change. 51% of 18-34 year olds tell Gallup this will cause serious problems in their lives. Only 29% of those over 55 believe this is the case. Some young Americans identify with progressive Democrats like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, one of the co-sponsors of the Green New Deal, a series of legislative proposals that are considerably more aggressive than Biden's climate plan but are not supported by the centrists concerned about his massive cost.
09/25/2020: A poster reading “Reduce the reuse of recycling” that was seen on the ground during the protest in front of the Kiev City Hall. Climate activists around the world have teamed up for the first global climate action of 2020, carried out worldwide amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Pavlo Gonchar / SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images)
Most young people, however, are not Democrats. Pew data shows that only 31% of Millennials between the ages of 24 and 39 say they are Democrats, compared with 23% who identify as Republicans. The largest block, 42%, say they are independent. Voters become a little more conservative as they get older. "Conservatives care about nature conservation," says Backer. "They are the athletes, they are the farmers, they are often the fishermen, and they have to have a voice because we need Central America and Conservatives to be part of this conversation.
But he recognizes that the national Republicans in Washington need to be strengthened. "There is no way we can move forward without the Republican Party taking a bigger stance and a more proactive stance on climate and environmental issues." Maybe next year?
Rick Newman is the author of four books, including "Rebounders: How Winners Go From Backlash To Success". Follow him on Twitter: @rickjnewman. Confidential line: firstname.lastname@example.org. Encrypted communication available. Click here to receive Rick's stories by email.
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