Clean Energy: An Unprecedented Opportunity for Republicans

The results of the 2016 election cycle illuminated the appetite among hardworking Americans and voters to put an end to the “business as usual” Washington we’ve become accustomed to over the last eight years. President Donald Trump rode into town, along with continued GOP majorities in the House and Senate, promising action to reverse the slowest economic recovery since the Great Depression.

While the mainstream media narrative has been full of ups and downs on both internal process stories and the recent failure to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, there have been some positive indicators of successes realized under this new administration and Republican leadership – like the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court and the remarkable number of jobs added since Trump was sworn in, to name a few. However, recent public polling reveals unrest on a host of fronts. In addition to the appetite for passing tax reform when the legislative session resumes, there is also an opportunity on a unique path forward for Republicans on an increasingly popular public policy front. One opportunity advances both publicly popular and effective reforms that will benefit America’s economic, environmental and national security needs: clean energy.

Recent studies, sponsored by Yale and George Mason University and the Pew Research Center, illustrated that large cross sections of the American public link climate change and carbon emissions to imminent economic and national security obstacles. A July survey fielded by WPA Intelligence and commissioned by Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions Forum — both conservative-leaning entities – realized similar conclusions, and provides additional insights into what this means for Republicans. Messaging test results suggest that Republicans have an opening to build support among critical “swing” voting subgroups in advance of the 2018 midterm elections. Indeed, this is particularly effective when “clean energy solutions” are championed through both economic and national security lenses.

Public sentiment in support of clean energy continues to be both clear and escalating on behalf of a growing appetite for increased development and the implementation of solutions that will yield new, good paying jobs, increase national security and protect our air and water. Our recent research reported that fully three quarters of likely voters (75 percent) think the federal government should play a role in the development of new, clean and reliable energy sources, while a substantial 72 percent support the federal government reducing emissions in order to address climate change. When the results are broken down into demographic groups, significant majorities of millennials (75 percent) and Hispanics (77 percent) support candidates whose policy agendas advance the development of clean energy technologies.

The survey provides timely feedback to Trump as his administration concludes its first six months in the White House. Conducted just one month after Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement, the survey results show that 67 percent of likely voters and 56 percent of Republicans support the United States re-entering the Paris Agreement.

Support for clean energy solutions have reached unprecedented levels among the Republican voting electorate. More than half of self-identified conservatives (52 percent), a majority of 2016 Trump voters (56 percent) and almost six-in-10 Republicans (57 percent) favor a federal government approach to reduce gas emissions, such as methane and carbon dioxide, that cause climate change. This change in party alignment can be attributed to the rise of millennial Republicans, 65 percent of whom support the federal government in taking steps to reduce emissions.

Recent surveys indicate an overarching shift in the U.S. political paradigm. Americans are prioritizing clean energy solutions and expect their elected officials to do the same. Additionally, for the first time in decades, climate and energy policy is not a one-party issue area; Republicans can win over key targeted likely voters by adjusting messaging and emphasizing clean energy priorities. As Republican millennials continue to drive this trend, it will be of tremendous benefit for our Republican elected officials and candidates to effectively utilize the opportunity at hand and communicate with voters on the issue of supporting clean energy reforms that will have an impact stemming from national security to protecting our clean air and water across every town in the nation.

Ashlee Rich Stephenson is a pollster at WPA Intelligence and a strategist for Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions Forum.

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