Who Votes for Climate Change?

Image courtesy of Tai Michaels.

The majority of Americans believe that climate change is real—but how important is it to their vote? A team of Yale and George Mason University researchers recently released a new study on the predictors of how important climate change is as a voting issue. 

Analyzing data from the long-running Climate Change in the American Mind surveys, the researchers began by identifying factors strongly associated with how important climate change is when voting. They identified many contributing factors, including social norms, media exposure, and political party alignment. The factors related to climate change being someone’s first voting priority, however, were much more unexpected. Interestingly, discussing climate change with family and friends was the only significant predictor across all survey waves analyzed. Several other factors, such as worry and mainstream media exposure, were significant in at least one survey, but none were significant in all surveys. 

These results stand as a testament to the power of personal connections on climate change voting and advocacy. “Ending the idea of climate silence and cultivating discourse… [so that] it’s something that people talk about with others” is crucial, according to lead researcher Eryn Campbell. These findings could be important for climate advocacy work—particularly in strategizing on how to motivate people to communicate to friends and family the importance of voting for politicians that support climate change policies. 

In the future, Campbell plans to evaluate groups of cognitive, experiential, and sociocultural factors separately before examining their combined contributions to voting issue importance. The research team plans to dig deeper into significant factors such as discussing with family and friends—as well as into typically important factors that were not found to be consistently significant, such as exposure to conservative and liberal media.