Environmental Voters Show Up Strong in Early Voting

by Julia Pyper, Host/Producer, Political Climate

At least 62 million Americans have already cast their ballots nationwide, with Election Day still more than 10 days away. Are environmental issues mobilizing voters? And could these environmental voters tip the scales in battleground states?

In a high-stakes election for climate advocates, early voting data looks positive, according to Nathaniel Stinnett, founder of the Environmental Voter Project. “Early voting is through the roof,” he told the Political Climate podcast this week. In key swing states such as Florida, Arizona, and Pennsylvania, hundreds of thousands of identified “environment-first voters” have already cast their ballots, according to the Environmental Voter Project. These numbers could make the difference in tight districts. 

Why This Matters: While climate change can be a polarizing issue, research shows that persuasion isn’t the primary issue when it comes to voting for climate action; it’s voter turnout. Election data reveals that environmentalists don’t show up to vote as often as the overall population. The Environmental Voter Project is working to change that. The nonpartisan group seeks to identify inactive environmentalists and turn them into consistent activists and voters. So far, that work appears to be paying off, in an effort that could sway the outcome of the 2020 election.

“Really, Really Exciting”: Early voting demographics are currently trending young and Democratic, and a significant portion of those voters list climate as a top priority, Stinnett explains. While a record-breaking number of early ballots won’t determine the election outcome alone, these figures will guide voter turnout efforts and campaign spending in the final drive to November 3. 

If you bank a target and you know they’ve already voted, you don’t need to spend any more time or money on them and that’s really, really exciting,” Stinnett said. “Pennsylvania has already seen 323,000 environment-first voters show up, and that’s a lot of people we and other people don’t need to talk to anymore.”

Climate Drives Votes: As climate-induced extreme weather events become more frequent and apparent, a strong majority of Americans have begun to prioritize action on the issue. Stinnett asserts that “people who have experienced firsthand environmental degradation or expect to experience it where they live are much more likely to list climate change as a top priority when they vote.” 

This is indicative of a larger trend across U.S. politics, according to Stinnett. Just 2% of likely voters listed climate as their top priority in 2016. This year, however, that number has jumped to 12% of likely voters. In Florida, 89% of residents claim to be concerned about the climate, including 86% percent of Republicans. In Pennsylvania, a state known for its coal and natural gas resources, 76% of voters consider climate a concern. 

According to a recent Data for Progress study, plans for bold action on climate is the single most effective persuasive issue among key swing state voters in Arizona, North Carolina, Iowa and Maine. 

Final Sprint: With the election just days away, the task for Nathaniel Stinnett and the Environmental Voter Project is to get environment-first voters to keep showing up at the polls. “Obviously with coronavirus and a knee-capped Postal Service, the logistics of voting are a little bit more delicate than they ever have been before,” he tells Political Climate. “We’re living in a completely unique, new time.”

To Go Deeper: Listen to Nathaniel Stinnett’s full interview with Political Climate here, or wherever you get podcasts!


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