Will climate change concerns impact young voters in November?

Poll shows young people consider climate change an important issue, but more voters say the economy is more important.
Global Finance
Posted at 5:57 AM, Jun 19, 2024

Poll after poll shows the country is on track for a very close election this November, and mobilizing support from young voters will be key for whoever wins the White House.

So what issues are motivating young voters in 2024? Multiple polls show the economy is the most important issue for young voters, but other key priorities, like reproductive health, gun violence and climate change, are often among the top concerns.

Matthew Ballew is a research specialist for the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. He said younger adults are becoming more concerned about climate change, and he thinks it's important to draw a connection between global warming and other issues.

"We know that climate impacts will harm the economy. They're going to damage public infrastructure. They're going to increase health costs due to more public health issues. And clean energy will positively benefit the economy, including more job growth, increasing tech and industrial development," he explained.

A June poll from the Economist and YouGov found 83% of 18-29 year olds said climate change was an important issue, the highest of any age group. But when they were asked about the "most important" issue, only 11% of that same age group said climate.

"We know that global warming isn't as high as a priority compared to other issues, but [what] we do know is that most registered voters would prefer to vote for a candidate who supports action on global warming," Ballew said.

Groups focused on getting young people more involved in democracy say they know that changes impacting one political issue inevitably impact others. Voters of Tomorrow works to help get young people registered to vote, and they encourage Gen Z members to reach out to their elected officials to share their concerns.

"We know that all these issues are intertwined, and we know that action on all these issues depends on electing the right people and having the right people in power next year who can make progress on those issues that we care about," said Marianna Pecora, the communications director for Voters of Tomorrow.

People under 30 are more likely to view climate change as a concern, but getting those passionate young voters to the ballot box can be challenging. Nathaniel Stinnett, the Executive Director for the Environmental Voter Project said voter suppression efforts end up targeting the type of voter who feels strongly about the environment.

"If anybody anywhere is making it harder for someone to vote, chances are they're targeting young people, people of color or poor people. And that right there is the beating heart of the modern environmental movement," Stinnett explained.

Groups focused on mobilizing young people, like Voters of Tomorrow, are taking a layered approach and aiming to connect with eligible voters in multiple ways. Action for the Climate Emergency is working to connect with 35 million voters under the age of 35 this year. The nonpartisan group wants to make sure young voters have everything they need to participate in November, from information on voter registration to sample ballots and where their polling place is located.

Climate advocacy organizations, like ACE, believe that even if the environment isn't the No. 1 issue, it still can help drive people to the polls.

"Young people who are actually concerned about this issue actually participate at higher rates than others in the election process and in our democratic process. ... So really, climate concern is a huge motivator for civic participation in 2024," said Leah Qusba, the executive director of Action for the Climate Emergency.

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