Across the United States, pollsters have tried to predict the outcome of November’s presidential election. But increasing fluctuation in battleground states polls has left the race open. Recently, a new study has shed light on the trajectory of swing voters. More than before, the electorate sees environmental policy as a potentially deciding factor.
The Role of Swing Voters
There’s no doubt that swing states can decide an election. The Trump campaign is well aware of this. A pro-Trump super PAC, American First Action, has dedicated its funding to determining which Democratic candidates have the most favorable ratings in swing states. By collecting hundreds of pages of data, they will know which candidates to assign the most attack ads in the lead-up to Super Tuesday on March 3rd.
These attack ads aim to swing voters in the priority battleground states: Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania. If these states vote Trump, they would guarantee his re-election.
But as it stands, only 77% of Trump’s 2016 voter base intends on voting for him again in November. And 6% of his former base has chosen to vote for the Democratic nominee instead. Scaled to the U.S.’s vast electorate, these margins could make or break his campaign.
Matt Morrison, the executive director of Working America, the organization behind this study, agrees. “[Donald Trump’s] base is visible and vocal but smaller” today as opposed to in 2016, he said. Accordingly, the 23% that have left Trump’s ranks are now up for grabs.
Will the Race Boil Down to Climate Policy?
With swing voters a highly contested section of the electorate, candidates are racing to strategize plans to woo them. And according to Working America’s study, focusing on climate policy may be the way to go.
The study, which surveyed persuadable voters in Arizona, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, found that environmental concerns are becoming more influential on voter choice.
Strangely enough, these swing voters are more concerned with the “need to take action,” than the specifics of environmental policy proposals. Notably, 61% of “persuadable” voters surveyed expressed support for the Green New Deal, which would commit to 100% renewable energy within 10 years. This number rises to 76% of swing voters with Democratic-leanings.
Among the proponents are many registered Republicans. One of whom, José from Phoenix, Arizona, stated, “If they market it right, Arizona and Nevada could power the whole country.”
Ambitious Climate Policy Isn’t Met Without Skepticism
Others expressed skepticism over the practicality of such drastic climate policy, yet nonetheless agreed on its necessity.
A man from Minnetonka, Minnesota shares this worry, saying, “Ten years would be impossible. I don’t think they should set unrealistic time frames because I don’t want it to be rushed.”
Regardless of disagreements on implementation, the concern for environmental action transcends the urban-rural divide. This is especially true in highly conservative rural areas which boosted Trump’s base in 2016.
But now, these communities see climate change as increasingly relevant. Having considered the Trump campaign’s environmental platform, many swing voters have expressed openness to voting for other candidates with better climate solutions.
Broadly, the data found that the environment ranks as the third top issue among swing voters — only behind healthcare and the economy. And for one in ten rural voters, the environment is their number one issue.
The Environment, as an Issue, Tails Only Healthcare and the Economy
Other focus groups and pollsters have also confirmed that swing voters may align their votes according to environmental policy.
In particular, research firms Engagious and Focus Pointe Global have hosted focus groups in Florida, Iowa, Michigan and Pennsylvania. These groups, while not a random sample, demonstrate that environmental protections are increasingly relevant for voters.
One voter in Florida remarked that climate change has increased toxic algae in local waterways, consequently killing pets and harming health. While she does not blame Trump for the local environmental issue, his commitment to undoing years of environmental protections strikes a wrong nerve.
Swing voters seem to share this distaste for Trump’s environmental policy actions on a greater scale. A poll from the Washington Post found that Trump has a net 33-point negative rating on climate change among voters.
The past four years have clearly seen a remarkable shift in the priorities of the electorate. Accordingly, the presidential race may hang in the balance of environmentally-concerned swing voters.