Democratic voters overwhelmingly support devoting one of the Democratic National Committee’s four televised presidential primary debates to climate change, according to a new poll.
An online YouGov survey, commissioned by the left-leaning think tank Data for Progress, polled 1,030 registered voters over two days last week to ask if they’d “support or oppose setting side” one of the debates “to focus specifically on the issue of climate change.” Democrats and independents who lean blue supported the idea by 64%, with 42% strongly in support and 22% somewhat in favor. That compares to just 11% of Democrats opposed, 6% not sure and 20% neutral.
Nearly half of Republicans opposed the debate, with just over 37% strongly opposed and nearly 18% in favor. Among U.S. voters overall, support hit 41%, with 26% strongly in support and 15% somewhat in favor. That compares to 27% opposed, 7% not sure and 26% neutral.
“Presidential candidates are releasing climate platforms at a faster pace than the New York Yankees are winning baseball games,” said Julian Brave NoiseCat, the Green New Deal strategy chief at Data for Progress. “The Democratic Party must live up to the spirit of its name and host a damn debate.”
The DNC rejected calls for a climate-only debate earlier this month, setting off a firestorm between the Democrats’ main party organ and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), who hitched his 2020 presidential campaign to the crisis of climate change alone.
“Democrats need to be the party of solutions on the climate crisis; the first step is holding a full-fledged debate on this existential threat,” Inslee told HuffPost. “Grassroots Democrats want a climate debate. It’s time for the DNC to listen to them.”
Inslee, whose donors and polling already qualify him for the scheduled debates, called global warming a uniquely “existential crisis” that merits an event focused on the disparate plans to curb emissions. DNC Chair Tom Perez lamented in a Medium post titled “On Debates” that, “If we change our guidelines at the request of one candidate who has made climate change their campaign’s signature issue, how do we say no to the numerous other requests we’ve had?”
More than a dozen of Inslee’s 2020 rivals, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), backed his demand for a climate debate. As of Monday, a petition for a climate debate sponsored by 18 progressive and environmental groups had more than 216,000 signatures.
The climate debate fight is in many ways penance for the fact that candidates spent what Grist calculated to be just five minutes and 22 seconds debating climate change during the 2016 presidential debates. (The issue got only slightly more play during the Democratic primary debates.)
Since then, climate change has become a top issue for Democrats. A March Gallup poll found 81% of self-described liberals, 77% of Democrats and 53% of independents reported feeling “highly worried” about climate change. An April CNN survey pegged climate change as a top issue for 82% of registered Democrats planning to vote in the 2020 presidential primary.
“All the data indicates that voters are alarmed about global warming,” said NoiseCat, an occasional HuffPost contributor. “It should come as no surprise that they want a debate.”