Sunrise NYC, a climate activist group, rallies in front of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s office in Midtown Manhattan demanding that he support the Green New Deal. (Photo: Gabriele Holtermann-Gorden/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Amid persistent calls for a green and just recovery from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and nationwide protests against systemic racism and injustice, researchers on Friday detailed recent studies showing “policy packages that address the climate crisis alongside income inequality, racial injustice, and the economic crisis are more popular among voters.”
The protests sparked by Minneapolis police killing George Floyd have renewed pressure on all levels of government to pursue racial justice—and not just in terms of police violence against historically marginalized groups, particularly black Americans, but also when it comes to economic and environmental injustice.
In their piece for the Washington Post, the three researchers acknowledge the current slate of urgent crises facing the country and how these crises are linked to racial inequality before detailing the results of two nationally representative public opinion studies they conducted over the past year. “The take-home message is clear,” the researchers write. “Linking climate policy with social and economic reforms makes climate action more popular with the public.”
One example of this policymaking approach that the researchers highlight is the Green New Deal resolution introduced in February 2019 by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.). The resolution calls for tackling “the existential threat posed by climate change” through a 10-year shift to 100% clean energy that ensures a just transition for workers and frontline communities, in part by creating millions of new, well-paying jobs.
The researchers behind the studies and Post piece are Parrish Bergquist—a postdoctoral researcher at the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and an incoming assistant professor of public policy at Georgetown University—along with Matto Mildenberger and Leah Stokes, who are both assistant professors of political science at the University of California at Santa Barbara and have each published books on climate policymaking.
In a tweet about the Post piece Friday, Stokes reiterated their finding that “linking climate policy to social and economic justice makes it more popular” and drew attention to the resolution from Ocasio-Cortez and Markey, writing that it turns out they “had a really popular idea when they proposed the Green New Deal.”
The first study—detailed in a peer-reviewed, open access paper published last month in Environmental Research Letters—surveyed 2,476 Americans online last summer. Some respondents reviewed climate packages that included social or economic programs while others reviewed packages with only climate policies.
“We found unambiguous evidence that Americans support the key idea behind the Green New Deal: addressing climate change alongside economic and social problems,” the researchers write in the Post. As they explain:
Compared with a policy package with only climate reforms, including economic policies such as a jobs guarantee, unionized clean energy jobs, and retraining for fossil fuel workers increased support for the package by an average of 12 percentage points. While Democrats in our survey viewed these policies more favorably, including economic measures in a climate package does not drive Republicans away.
We found similar results when we added some social policy planks, such as affordable housing and a $15 minimum wage. The social policies we tested increased support for a climate policy package by an average of 11 percentage points. That said, some social policies—such as universal, government-run health insurance and free college—increased the package’s overall popularity but decreased Republican support.
The second study, conducted last month, surveyed 1,049 Americans to determine the popularity of including climate policies in the stimulus packages necessitated by the ongoing pandemic. Similar to the first study, the researchers found “packages that invest in clean energy and transportation are more popular than coronavirus spending that ignores the climate crisis.”
“In our survey, including investments in wind and solar increases support by 8.5 percentage points, making it one of the most popular policy planks that we tested. While clean energy investments are mostly popular among Democrats, including them does not decrease Republican support,” they write. “Yet, so far, Congress has not focused on green stimulus.”
The researches note that “the climate crisis will not take a break during the pandemic” and “climate impacts will fall disproportionately on communities of color, including black Americans—the same groups who are already hit hardest by the Covid-19 crisis, unemployment, and police brutality.”
Given the popularity of pairing urgently needed climate action with policies that address inequality, racial injustice, and the economic crisis, the researchers conclude that “in the future, we might find Congress taking this approach.”
The op-ed comes about a week after the DNC Council on the Environment and Climate Crisis put out a Democratic Party platform recommendation—directed at presumptive presidential nominee Joe Biden—calling for a national plan through 2050 that is “informed by the vision and aspirations of the Green New Deal.”
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Protesters want justice — including on social, economic and climate demands
Our surveys suggest the public supports green stimulus plans
By Parrish Bergquist, Matto Mildenberger and Leah C. Stokes June 12, 2020 at 5:45 a.m. MDT
The United States is facing several crises: the coronavirus pandemic; widespread unemployment; rampant inequality, particularly along racial lines; police brutality — and a growing climate crisis. With hundreds of thousands of Americans in the streets protesting over the past two weeks, it’s clear that many people are unhappy with how their leaders are handling these crises.
To many experts, the pandemic is just the latest evidence of the connections between climate change, health and racial inequality. For example, burning fossil fuels causes climate change. It also creates air pollution that harms our health.
Yet these issues are also linked to racial inequality. Today, 68 percent of black Americans live within 30 miles of a coal plant. Similarly, oil and gas facilities are disproportionately located in black, Hispanic and indigenous communities. Hence, people in these communities are breathing dirtier air, making them more likely to die of covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
So what does this mean for climate politics? Recognizing the links between climate change and other crises, some politicians have begun to propose policies that address these problems together. Last year Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) proposed a Green New Deal resolution that combined solutions to climate change with economic and social programs.
Our research examines whether the public supports addressing climate change alongside our economic and social problems.
In one study, conducted online last summer, we asked Americans whether they want the federal government to address climate change narrowly or take on the climate crisis alongside broader economic and social problems. In a follow-up study, which we ran last month, we tested whether the public would support including policies to address climate change in federal covid-19 recovery packages. Across the board, we find that linking policy responses increases public support for federal climate action.
People favor linking climate policy with economic and social protections
In a new peer-reviewed paper, which can be freely downloaded, we tested whether linking climate policy with economic and social policy makes good politics. We found it does.
Last summer, we asked a representative sample of 2,476 Americans to choose between two climate policy packages. Some people read about climate policy packages that also included social or economic programs; others saw packages that included only climate policies. Social scientists call this type of experiment a “conjoint design” — it’s a way to measure people’s preferences when facing complex policy choices. When we analyze our conjoint experiment, we can measure whether each individual component of a policy package increases or decreases support for the overall reform.
In our study, we found unambiguous evidence that Americans support the key idea behind the Green New Deal: addressing climate change alongside economic and social problems.
Compared with a policy package with only climate reforms, including economic policies such as a jobs guarantee, unionized clean energy jobs and retraining for fossil fuel workers increased support for the package by an average of 12 percentage points. While Democrats in our survey viewed these policies more favorably, including economic measures in a climate package does not drive Republicans away.
We found similar results when we added some social policy planks, such as affordable housing and a $15 minimum wage. The social policies we tested increased support for a climate policy package by an average of 11 percentage points. That said, some social policies — such as universal, government-run health insurance and free college — increased the package’s overall popularity but decreased Republican support.
Research suggests that addressing the growing climate crisis will provide benefits to Americans, particularly black, Hispanic and indigenous communities. Left unchecked, climate impacts will continue to disproportionately burden these groups. Our data show that these groups are even more supportive of a Green New Deal. We find that including social and economic policies in climate policy is especially effective at expanding support for climate reforms among communities of color.
The take-home message is clear: Linking climate policy with social and economic reforms makes climate action more popular with the public.
The public supports green stimulus
Last month, we ran a second, nationally representative public opinion study with 1,049 Americans. This time, we aimed to understand how Americans want Congress to tackle the coronavirus pandemic. We asked our survey respondents to choose between two, randomly varied stimulus packages, some of which included climate policies and others that did not.
Again, our research suggests that linking these crises makes the policy response more popular.
Policy packages that invest in clean energy and transportation are more popular than coronavirus spending that ignores the climate crisis. In our survey, including investments in wind and solar increases support by 8.5 percentage points, making it one of the most popular policy planks that we tested. While clean energy investments are mostly popular among Democrats, including them does not decrease Republican support.
Our results suggest that Americans want Congress to address climate change in coronavirus economic relief packages. Yet, so far, Congress has not focused on green stimulus. Instead, the laws that have passed aim to prop up the fossil fuel industry — even though this approach is not popular with the public.
The climate crisis is still happening
The climate crisis will not take a break during the pandemic. Experts predict intense hurricane and wildfire seasons in 2020. Already, three Atlantic storms were large enough to name this year, a milestone typically reached in August.
These and other climate impacts will fall disproportionately on communities of color, including black Americans — the same groups who are already hit hardest by the covid-19 crisis, unemployment and police brutality.
In each of our studies, we find that policy packages that address the climate crisis alongside income inequality, racial injustice and the economic crisis are more popular among voters. In the future, we might find Congress taking this approach.
Parrish Bergquist is a postdoctoral researcher at the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and an incoming assistant professor of public policy at Georgetown University.
Matto Mildenberger is an assistant professor of political science at the University of California at Santa Barbara and the author of “Carbon Captured” (The MIT Press, 2020).
Leah C. Stokes is an assistant professor of political science at the University of California at Santa Barbara and the author of “Short Circuiting Policy” (Oxford University Press, 2020).
The George Floyd protests will not help Trump win reelection. Here’s why.
Let’s check the polling
By Michael Tesler June 3, 2020 at 5:00 a.m. MDT
Some suspect President Trump’s threats to use military force to restore “law and order” could help his reelection efforts. After all, academic research suggests that 1960s white backlash against rising racial tensions and urban violence helped the Republican Party in general and bolstered Richard M. Nixon’s 1968 presidential campaign to restore law and order in particular.
During his 2016 presidential campaign, Trump echoed those calls for “law and order” in response to Black Lives Matter protests. The strategy may have worked, too. Among whites who voted for Democratic President Barack Obama in 2012, those who scored high on racial resentment were more likely than others to switch their votes in 2016 to support Trump, the Republican nominee.AD
But the current racial unrest, sparked by the death of George Floyd, a black man, in police custody, will probably hurt Trump’s reelection prospects more than it’ll help, for several reasons.
Chaos is not good for incumbents
First, Trump is the incumbent.
“Law and order” in the face of civil unrest is a powerful message to run against a political party that has controlled the presidency. It’s all the more effective against a Democratic Party that has been labeled soft on crime and has already held the White House for eight years, which was the case in 1968 and 2016.
But it’s much harder for an incumbent to run against disorder on his own watch. Presidents tend to get blamed for bad things that happen during their terms. Research suggests that they’re even punished for natural disasters and other events beyond the White House’s control.AD
Trump is all the more likely to be blamed for the unrest because many have accused the president’s rhetoric and actions of fueling chaos, violence and discord. Historian Kevin M. Kruse wrote about this in detail Tuesday in The Washington Post. Journalist Ezra Klein put it succinctly here:
This is why I don’t buy the political analysis that any of this is going to help Trump. When Nixon ran in 68, he wasn’t president. Trump is president, and people can see the way he contributes to chaos and discord.4,9445:07 PM – Jun 1, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy783 people are talking about this
Chaos and discord are bad enough for an incumbent president running for reelection; being accused of actively contributing to it makes that worse.
Americans do not trust Trump on race relations
Perhaps more important, the public views Trump as a racially divisive figure at a time when racial reconciliation is needed.
As Philip Rucker reported this weekend, “Trump’s record of racially insensitive and sometimes outright racist comments over the years has led many Democrats and even some Republicans to conclude that he does not fully comprehend the nation’s history of racism and the corresponding tensions that live on today.”
Polling data certainly supports this point. The public has consistently viewed Trump’s handling of race relations worse than his performance on just about any other issue.
The figure above, which draws on four nationally representative surveys conducted during the late summer months of 2019, shows just how poorly the public has viewed Trump’s performance on this issue. Americans have given Trump low marks for how he’s handled most issues other than the economy. But they’ve even more strongly disapproved of his performance on race relations, consistently rating him at about 30 points underwater throughout his presidency.AD
That’s already showing up in the earliest polling on the protests. Trump’s tweet below, which many decried as racist, and Twitter flagged for glorifying violence, was one of the president’s most unpopular.
I can’t stand back & watch this happen to a great American City, Minneapolis. A total lack of leadership. Either the very weak Radical Left Mayor, Jacob Frey, get his act together and bring the City under control, or I will send in the National Guard & get the job done right…..
….These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!82.2K10:53 PM – May 28, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy70.8K people are talking about this
YouGov has asked Americans to evaluate Trump’s tweets since the early days of his presidency. The tweet above drew unusually strong disapproval — with a plurality of 40 percent rating it “terrible,” a majority of 52 percent rating it “bad” or “terrible,” and 31 percent calling it “good” or “great.”
Moreover, the most recent polling shows that most Americans think Trump is racist. In a YouGov-Yahoo survey conducted this past weekend, 52 percent said the president is a racist compared with only 37 percent who said he is not.
So it’s not surprising that early polling shows strong public disapproval of how the president is handling the protests. In the latest Morning Consult Poll, only 30 percent said he’s doing an “excellent,” “very good” or “good” job of addressing the situation. A plurality of 42 percent, meanwhile, think he’s doing a “poor” job, and a majority of 54 percent think he’s doing a poor or “only fair” job of responding to the protests.
Implications for November
The more that the protests highlight the need to improve the country’s ruptured race relations, then, the more it is likely to harm the president’s odds of reelection. In fact, some influential political science research argues that the whole goal of presidential campaigns is to emphasize issues where they have advantages and their opponents do not.
There may be no issue on which Trump has more liabilities than his handling of race relations.