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Global Warming and the American Voter in the 2018 Midterms: Perspectives from the Fall 2018 NSEE

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October 2018


In the wake of a summer and fall of extreme weather events and record wildfires in the United States the issue of climate change appears to be on the minds of many Americans as the much anticipated 2018 midterm elections approach. According to the Fall 2018 version of the National Surveys on Energy and Environment from the University of Michigan and Muhlenberg College, 6 out of 10 Americans said that a candidate’s position on global warming would have a major or moderate effect on their decision of who to vote for in the upcoming congressional elections. Comparatively just under 4 out of 10 Americans said that candidate positions on climate change would have either a minor or no effect on their vote choice this November.

As is so often the case in matters related to global warming, partisanship is a major determinant of the role climate change will play in an individual’s choice of candidates in the midterms. While a plurality of Democrats (44%) said that global warming would be a major factor in their vote for Congress, a plurality of Republicans (46%) said the issue would have no effect on their choice in congressional races. Notably a majority (57%) of Americans who identify themselves as independent said that candidate views on climate change will have a major or moderate effect on their choice in the congressional elections.

Figure 1. The Effect of Global Warming on Candidate Preferences in the 2018 Congressional Midterms Among Americans

Question text: “In terms of your vote in the 2018 Congressional Midterm Election will a candidate’s position on the issue of global warming have a major effect, moderate effect, or no effect on your decision on who to vote for in the upcoming congressional election?”

With midterms often seen as a referendum on the President’s performance in office, President Trump’s work on global warming is not well regarded by a majority of Americans. The NSEE results show only one third of Americans approve of President Trump’s handling of the issue of global warming, with a majority (55%) disapproving of his work on this matter. Again partisanship is a key predictor of individual perceptions of the President’s handling of the issue with over 3 out 4 Democrats (77%) disapproving of Trump’s handling of global warming, while a majority (55%) of Republicans approve of the President’s work on this issue.

Figure 2. Approval of President Trump’s Handling of Global Warming

Question text: “In general do you strongly approve, somewhat approve, somewhat disapprove or strongly disapprove of the way that President Donald Trump is handling the issue of global warming.”

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