As is the nature of the two-party political system in the United States, the country is often divided. While there may be bipartite deals when applied to high-profile issues, in recent years Democrats and Republicans have continued to move further and further apart. No more, perhaps, than on the environment and climate change.
Sadly, former President Donald Trump has effectively pulled the United States out of the Paris Agreement on climate change. This is something current Prime Minister Joe Biden reversed just hours after being sworn in as president. The dividing lines on green materials are therefore quite clear.
There is considerable hope that for global concerns such as climate change, US politics can become more bipartisan. It is certainly the hope of the No labels movement, which continues to push for such a change. The change No Labels refers to may well have been evident through the recent handling of COVID-19 by the United States.
However, there will always be divisions in American politics. As Democrats and Republicans risk moving further apart, what is their stance on important environmental issues?
Climate change – the elephant in the room
Data pooled during the 2020 primaries revealed that American citizens are more concerned than ever about the well-being of the planet. Potential voters in the Republican and Democratic parties have become increasingly concerned about climate change decade after decade.
However, there is still a clear divide. Data shows that while 85% of pro-Democrats placed “protecting the environment” as a key issue, only 39% of pro-GOPs agreed. The phrase “climate change” has produced an even wider divide, with 78% of pro-Democrats affected, and 21% of pro-GOPs as well.
Are these different priorities? Democrats seem to agree overwhelmingly that climate change is a major problem for the United States. Republican voters, on the other hand, while more aware of the issues than ever before, seem less concerned. Only about 41% of voters and GOP leaders think this is an issue worth worrying about.
These values are unlikely to have changed much over the past year and a half. Trump’s presidency has shifted environmental focus to much criticism – something Biden has already taken a stand on by reinstating the Paris accords almost immediately.
What’s interesting – and where the lines blur – is that research shows American citizens generally believe the government is not doing enough to protect the planet. Will that necessarily change under Biden? It may be too early to tell.
Other data grouped by Bench search earlier this year shows a very interesting picture when it comes to renewable energy. The good news is that it looks like more US citizens than ever are invested in an alternative to fossil fuels.
However, consistent with the trends defined and discussed above, GOP supporters are less inclined to support solar and wind power. An impressive 93% of Democrats polled seem to agree that solar is the way to go, with 91% saying the same for wind farms.
GOP voters, however, agree 73% for solar and 62% for wind. These stats may not seem so bad given the GOP’s apparent reputation on green issues, but this is a significant 11% drop in favor of solar and a 13% drop for wind. .
The exact reasons for the declines are unclear (although we could suggest that a shift to a COVID-focused policy might explain them). What’s interesting, however, is that Republican supporters seem more concerned with the cost and reliability of alternative power compared to Democrats. It may not be for pro-GOPs to see wind and solar farms as better for the planet, but more expensive for the US budget.
Will the parties ever meet?
Those in favor of a bipartisan approach to the problems of American politics believe that the environment is too important a concern for us to “do politics.” While Democratic voters may view climate change as a big concern in the Model Age, it will still take time for the United States to effect effective change. Republicans, meanwhile, appear to either be increasingly disappointed that climate change is a problem or worry more about the costs. There is, of course, also the ongoing concern about “climate change denial”. Unfortunately, there will always be a contrary opinion no matter what issues you are struggling with.
It is clear that the United States is generally waking up to a larger global catastrophe. However, the party lines are still drawn. There is a real argument for parties to move beyond their political affiliations and fight climate change, the same way they started to pull themselves together over COVID-19.
However, it may be a few generations before Democrats and Republicans both agree that green issues are of greatest concern. By then, unfortunately, it may be too late.