When Jay Inslee announced that the DNC had told him it wouldn’t hold a climate debate, voters and other presidential candidates responded. Voters were making the Twitter hashtag #ClimateDebate more popular by the day as more discussion ensued. Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren also publicly jumped to Inslee’s support.
No doubt, climate change is an issue of growing importance for voters, as many accounts have shown. But until recently, there was no data that directly backed the claim that voters even wanted a climate debate.
Although a CNN poll found that some 82% of young Democratic voters saw climate change to be a “top priority,” the question of whether these voters want one of the four televised DNC-sanctioned debates to be solely on climate remained unanswered. Just last week though, a recent YouGov survey became the first to share insights into this question.
The YouGov Survey
Last week, YouGov, a platform funded by Data for Progress, a left-leaning think tank, conducted an online survey that broke some of the silence. Having surveyed over a thousand registered voters, it found that support for a climate debate was deeply partisan. That’s no surprise, of course, as climate has long been a point of contention between parties.
Where Democrats Stand
The data shows that Democrats and independents voiced resounding support. Specifically, 64% of Democrats and independents support the idea, and over two-thirds of supporters voice strong support.
Where Republicans Stand
Despite overwhelming support for a climate debate from the left, 37% of Republicans were staunch opposers. However, holistically, just over a half of Republicans were supporters.
Where Voters Stand (Altogether)
Looking at voters altogether, 41% support a climate-specific debate and 26% are strongly in favor.
Potential Biases of the YouGov Survey
Because YouGov is run by a left-leaning think-tank, Data for Progress, its survey respondents are likely to be majority Democrat, although specific demographic data for this particular survey is unclear. Due to the partisan nature of the company that commissions YouGov, it is possible that support for a climate debate may be an overestimate of nominal support for it.
Additionally, the method of surveying may introduce response bias. Consequently, voters with polarizing opinions may be more likely to voice them.
Having a Climate Debate: Implications
Despite the potential biases that may have been introduced through the partisan nature of the source as well as the sampling method, the YouGov survey is the only source to go off of currently. If accurate, support for a climate debate is certainly there. Consequently, having one definitely makes a difference.
For instance, Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s platform is practically entirely policy tackling climate change. Having a climate debate would allow him to continue to engage with voters and strengthen his platform. Not having a climate debate would take away tremendous opportunities away from Inslee.
On the other hand, there has been speculation that the DNC doesn’t want to have a climate debate because it doesn’t want Joe Biden to have to shift his position on climate either too right or left. Understandable, but the DNC has received quite a bit of backlash from voters and other presidential candidates, which may pressure it to make a different decision. Plus, even Joe Biden himself has voiced support for a climate debate.
As evidence, both qualitative and quantitative, continues to suggest that voters want a discussion about climate to happen, it will be up to the DNC to determine whether or not it will make one of its four televised debates entirely climate-focused.
It may happen. It may not. Either way, the appetite for effective climate policy has been unprecedented in past elections, and it will be interesting to see how much it ends up swaying political outcomes.