Recent polling among young Republicans on environmental issues show them siding with Democrats rather than older leaders of their own party. In this highly polarized political atmosphere, the environment could become a bridge to common ground between Democrats and younger Republicans.
This shared environmental view could provide an opening for Democratic candidates to appeal to young Republicans by highlighting their advocacy on environmental issues. An indication that younger Republicans are changing is the College Republicans’ recent endorsement of a Democratic climate change initiative putting a price on carbon.
A recent Pew Research Center survey compared millennial (born between 1981-1996) Republicans to older generations of Republicans on a variety of environmental and energy issues.
“More Millennial Republicans than those in older generations say the federal government is currently doing too little to protect key aspects of the environment such as animals and their habitats (60% of Millennial vs. 34% of older Republicans), water quality of lakes, rivers and streams (59% vs. 43%) and air quality (49% vs. 29%).”
It’s the Democrats that have defended the government’s actions in protecting the environment from the threats that millennial Republicans fear. It’s the Democrats that are demanding we address the appalling conditions of water quality and the growing number of impaired waters in Iowa. Summer is near and Iowans will soon be seeing closed beaches with bans on swimming and water recreation due to dangerous levels of bacterial contamination. Over 750 of Iowa’s 1,096 Iowa rivers and lakes are impaired due to various types of pollution. Polling suggests young Republicans support Democrats more than their own leaders in efforts to force water cleanup.
The Republican-controlled legislature passed an anemic water bill that simply uses a shell game to shift funding from a tax on metered water and gambling revenues. They simply passed a scam water cleanup bill so they could campaign by claiming a sham victory.
It’s the Democratic candidates’ mission to point out the Iowa Republican’s complete failure in addressing the dangerous environmental health hazards of Iowa’s impaired waters. Combine the lack of action by Iowa Republicans with the wholesale assault on the national environment by EPA chief Scott Pruitt and Democrats have a powerful message as pro-environmentalists. Republican leaders at both the state and national levels are out of sync with millennial Republicans in their party. Democrats must emphasize that they are the party committed to defending the environment.
The Pew polling provides a stark difference on energy issues between younger and older Republicans as well. It details the sharp divide between millennial and older Republicans on energy development.
“When it comes to views about energy issues, Millennials are less inclined than older generations in the GOP to support increased use of fossil fuel energy sources such as offshore drilling, coal mining and hydraulic fracturing. For example, 44% of Millennial Republicans support the increased use of offshore drilling, compared with 75% of Republicans in the Baby Boomer and older generations.”
With President Trump’s support for the dying industries of coal and fossil fuels, young Republicans may be persuadable to vote with Democrats on the environment. Democrats must emphasize their commitment to a future based on renewable and sustainable energy policy.
A recent position announced by a coalition of college Republicans, Democrats and environmentalists supporting a climate change initiative suggests younger Republicans are breaking with their elders. They are joining Democrats and environmentalists to pursue climate change solutions.
“In February 34 student groups from around the country—including 23 chapters of the College Republicans—announced the formation of Students for Carbon Dividends, a bipartisan group calling for national legislation to fight climate change.”
While President Trump calls climate change a hoax and Republican leaders bury their heads in climate change denial, college Republicans embrace climate change solutions. College Republicans support for the national Democrats’ legislation to price carbon should provide an opening as Democratic candidates demand action on climate change and champion environmental issues.
by Rick Smith