Two-fifths of American voters say climate change will influence how they cast their ballots in the 2020 presidential election, a poll has found.
The burgeoning ranks of Democratic candidates are under particular pressure to offer solutions to environmental problems, according to researchers.
“This is truly a top-tier issue for the Democratic base,” said Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Programme on Climate Change Communication, which put out the poll along with George Mason University.
In the survey of more than 1,000 people, 38 per cent of respondents said a candidate’s position on global warming would be “very important” to them when polling opens in 18 months’ time, up five points from 2016.
So far two presidential hopefuls – Beto O’Rourke and Jay Inslee – have rolled out detailed climate platforms while another, Elizabeth Warren, has offered a handful of specific proposals, experts said. Frontrunner Joe Biden is also feeling the heat.
“With the salience of wildfires in the west, sea-level rise in the Gulf Coast and Florida and the way that weather affects farmers, people are beginning to see the effects of climate change,” said Sean Hecht, of UCLA’s Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.
Nearly two-thirds of Democrats – or 64 per cent – told pollsters a candidate’s views on climate change would be “very important” to them, compared to 34 per cent of registered independent voters and just 12 per cent of Republicans.
The figures are unlikely to trouble Donald Trump, who has been openly sceptical of climate science.
In November last year he responded to a major US government report predicting the dire economic consequences of unchecked climate change by saying: “I don’t believe it.”
His administration has pursued an agenda favourable to the fossil fuel industry, with the president championing what he called “beautiful, clean coal” in particular.
Additional reporting by Reuters