Climate Change: It’s Not Just for Democrats Anymore

by Aug 20, 2020

Shelton Stat of the Week

Belief that climate change is real and caused by man has decreased from 65% in 2017 to 55% today.

Since the Democratic National Convention is playing out virtually this week, it’s a good time to revisit a couple of general rules of the team sport of politics. Specifically, the “rule” that Republicans “own” religion and Democrats “own” environment.

I can’t really comment on religion – at least not with our data – but I can comment on environment. And I can say quantifiably, it’s not true that only Democrats worry about climate change.

Do you remember the Sting song “Russians” from the mid-’80s that’s basically a giant parental handwringing about nuclear war? The refrain is, “I hope the Russians love their children, too?” Much like the hope in the song that love or protective instincts can stop grown-ups from a nuclear war that would most certainly screw up their kids’ futures, our data suggests that same instinct can shift parents into action around climate change, somewhat regardless of political party.

Let’s do the numbers:

  • For the last several years, we’ve asked the question: how concerned do you feel about the impact climate change will have on your children’s quality of life during their lifetime? In May of this year, 82% of Millennials and Gen Zers – in our polling this is people between the ages of 18 and 40 – said they were moderately to extremely concerned. That number has stayed statistically the same over three polls, going back to 2018.
  • Now, if you go just to the top two box – very/extremely concerned – we do see a drop in concern now versus the summer of 2019, much like we’ve seen in all of our data (see this post for more on that). In May of this year, 48% were very to extremely concerned; 56% were very to extremely concerned in August of 2019.
  • Here’s where it gets interesting:
    • If you look at political affiliation for the very/extremely concerned Millennials and Gen Zers, you see that 48% identify as Democrats and 24% identify as Republicans. (The remaining 28% are independent or don’t have a party affiliation.) That’s kind of what you’d expect, based on the “rules” of the political game noted earlier.
    • But when you look at it with KIDS IN THE HOUSEHOLD – so that’s adults under the age of 40 who have kids in the home – the number of Republicans bumps up: 48% of the people who say they’re very/extremely concerned identify as Democrats, and 32% identify as Republicans.

So, with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek, it turns out at least some Republicans love their children, too! And, frankly, not as many Democrats as I would have thought.

The point of all of this is to say, we should no longer think about sustainability as something only people of a certain political persuasion care about. Sea levels are rising, horrific weather events are happening; we’re IN it. “Protecting the environment for future generations” is no longer a thing. “Protecting the environment for MY children” is.

If you have kids at home, do the math and figure out how old they’ll be in 2050. That’s, of course, the target year by which the Paris Climate Accord says we must reduce our emissions by 80% in order to keep the planet from warming by more than 2 degrees Celsius. My daughter will be 39 years old. If you want to scare the daylights out of your parental self, google what happens when the earth warms beyond 2 degrees Celsius (or just click here). It’s pretty terrifying. And no parent wants to leave that kind of dystopian future to their children, no matter what their politics are.

News of the Week
From “Firenadoes” to Record Heat, California Extreme Weather a Glimpse of the FutureLA Times
The LA Times shares that “as one of the worst heat waves in years continues to broil California, millions are experiencing the havoc that ensues with extreme weather that is growing more frequent with climate change.” These recent weather events are the result of meteorological phenomena that indicate seriously troubling climate change evidence. How are forest fires related to climate change? Read more…


The Teenagers at the End of the WorldNY Times

Who knew that it would be the voices of kids and teens that would eventually wake the world up to the scary realities of climate change? Definitely not us. Although we weren’t totally surprised. While we adults tend to get caught up in all the day’s “musts,” kids actually have the chance to focus in on important issues, get fired up, and, of course, they have the energy to commit to taking real action. Jamie Margolin — founder of Zero Hour, a youth-led climate action group — has met with politicians, celebrities and neighborhood kids in an effort to inspire outrage and encourage action, and she doesn’t plan to slow down anytime soon. Learn about the work that she and others like her are doing to save the planet. Read more…


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About the Author

Suzanne Shelton

Where Suzanne sees opportunity, you can bet results will follow. Drawing on her extensive knowledge of both the advertising world and the energy and environment arena, Suzanne provides unparalleled strategic insights to our clients and to audiences around North America. Suzanne is a guest columnist in multiple publications and websites, such as GreenBiz, and she speaks at around 20 conferences a year, including Sustainable Brands, Fortune Brainstorm E and Green Build.


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