The Presidential Primaries Silence Voters Who Care About Climate Change

Counterintuitively, psychologists have found that being exposed to these sorts of life-altering climate events has less bearing on an individual’s climate change opinion than their underlying political ideology. “Most of us,” Leiserowitz explains, “do not experience a heat wave and just automatically go, ‘Oh, my gosh, I wonder how much of a role climate change played in this?’ That’s not something that happens for most people.”

But whereas climate-concerned Democratic voters are generally well represented by their elected officials, Republican candidates remain broadly out of touch with their base. Nationally, 64 percent of Republicans support regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant. None of the four early voting states meet or surpass that national average. Meanwhile, the Republican voters most supportive of climate action—namely, suburban women and people of color—are essential to the GOP’s winning coalition.

At some point, the primary calendar’s anti-climate bias could start delivering Republican presidential nominees whose climate platforms are just too regressive for the national GOP base. “The question,” according to Leiserowitz, “is just how long can they continue to win using and having a set of stances that are increasingly at odds with some of the most important members of their voting bloc?” We may find out as early as November.