With the 2018 election cycle behind us, the press postmortem highlighting key midterm takeaways is complete. As with anything, the time to reflect brings to light opportunity.
In the case of the Republican Party losing control of the House of Representatives, there are a few trends that were forecasted and ultimately realized on Election Day that we cannot ignore. We must identify policy solutions that will allow conservatives to effectively reconnect with major voting blocs who were “deciders” in 2018. Groups of the most immediate and critical importance include independents, suburban voters and women.
As those of us who provide strategic messaging and polling counsel to campaigns evaluate the simple “what worked” and “what did not” — it’s apparent we must continue cultivating clear and appealing solutions for a multitude of issue sets. A national post-election 2018 survey among those who participated in the midterms brings to light an issue with significant appeal among the aforementioned electoral constituencies that Republicans ought to train their focus: clean energy.
Earlier this month, the Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions Forum and the Conservative Energy Network released the results of a national post-election survey that suggest clean energy policy is a significant issue for a majority of midterm voters.
The findings from the survey reveal a number of interesting insights, and the impact that clean energy had on this year’s midterms was crystal clear. More than two‐thirds of voters (68 percent) said clean energy was important to their vote in 2018, and over three‐quarters (76 percent) said it is important that a candidate for political office shares their opinion on clean energy issues. Further, results showed a supermajority of voters (81 percent) across party affiliations and all four regions of the country said they would vote for elected officials who support clean energy development like wind and solar.
But even more telling, entire groups of swing voters said clean energy matters. An astounding 85 percent of suburban women support government action to accelerate the use of clean energy in the United States. How often does 85 percent of any group of people agree on any particular issue?
Again, it’s the common-sense aspect that is driving that kind of backing for clean energy. It doesn’t matter how one feels about climate change anymore. In some states where clean energy industries are thriving, it has almost become a “kitchen table” issue because jobs have been created locally, and increasing numbers of nearby solar farms and wind turbines are tangible signs for average Americans that these industries are advancing.
In fact, many of the states where clean energy issues play best are actually “red” states across the Sun Belt, where solar energy is abundant, and the Great Plains, where wind blows freely. Clean energy is popular because these resources are unmistakably fueling local economic growth. If Republicans worry that efforts to win over independents with action on clean energy will cost them votes with their base, there’s little evidence to suggest that would be the case. This poll actually suggests the opposite, as more than two-thirds of Republicans were among the group that supports clean energy.
But when given a choice, the poll also shows that nearly two-thirds of the participants would prefer ramping up clean energy development through competition and free-market policies — and that is exactly the sort of messaging Republicans should adopt in future elections to draw support from both independents and conservatives.
As the free-market party, Republicans are well-positioned to regain their footing with independent voters if they embrace a comprehensive clean energy message. Public support for clean energy continues to grow as energy from clean and renewable sources becomes more economically viable to produce.
Conservative leaders must let suburban voters and other swing voters know that it will be the GOP that will foster clean energy innovation in the nation. Voters should know that Republicans will be the ones to create jobs, boost the economy, and secure our grid from attacks by utilizing new energy technology and supporting advancement in energy innovation.
There will be a number of opportunities for Republicans in the new Congress to show their support for clean energy next year. They must seize this moment to turn back the tide and gain more votes across the political spectrum, including the suburban voters and women lost in 2018. It may not single-handedly lift them to victory in 2020, but as part of a larger plan for economic growth and security, it is a significant opportunity to make gains among voters with whom it’s critical we now re-engage.
Ashlee Rich Stephenson is a pollster and public opinion expert with WPA Intelligence and a strategist for Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions Forum.