With ex-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and reality TV star Donald Trump likely to square off as the next Democratic and Republican nominees for U.S. president, their country may be about to go through its first national election in which climate change matters as a vote-determining issue.
“Now that the race appears to have narrowed to these two, it sets up a situation that many environmentalists have long hoped for—one in which a sharp contrast on climate change between the two candidates means that it might not only come up prominently in an election, but moreover, actually make a difference,” the Washington Post reports. Climate received scant attention in the 2012 general election or the 2014 mid-terms. But “the issue appears to have grown in public salience since then,” writes reporter Chris Mooney. “New polling data, in combination with the very clear difference between Trump and Clinton on the issue, suggests at least a chance that things might actually be different this time around.”
Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters, called climate “an important issue on which to sharpen the contrast in the general election, particularly with young voters.”
“Rarely does any one issue decide a Presidential election, but being a climate denier hurts Trump,” said Democratic pollster and strategist Mark Mellman. “Trump’s position sends a wider signal about being anti-science and anti-environment which will make it very difficult for him to appeal to moderates.”
The Post notes that relatively few U.S. voters rank climate change as a top priority, and those who do are mostly liberal Democrats. But in a recent post on EcoWatch, Keith Gaby of the U.S. Environmental Defense Fund points to another trend that might capture the attention of down-ballot Republicans: the growing number of clean energy jobs in their own political back yards.
“Clean energy jobs, in the form of utility-scale wind or solar facilities, are now mostly in Republican districts,” Gaby writes. “That’s because sunshine and wind are abundant in places such as Kansas, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Texas. And rural areas, often represented by Republicans, have inexpensive land available for facilities like this.”
That matters, he adds, because “there are very few things politicians care about more than their constituents’ jobs. It’s not an exaggeration to say that job stability and growth are the lens through which they see nearly every issue.”