At least six of the senators widely expected to seek the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination are backing legislation that would guarantee a job to every American worker who wants one.
That’s a popular idea that 46 percent of Americans support, according to an April survey by Rasmussen Reports. But new polling shows a guaranteed jobs policy is even more popular when the jobs would focus on “scaling up renewable energy, weatherizing homes and office buildings, developing mass transit projects, and maintaining green community spaces” ― even among those who voted for President Donald Trump in 2016.
The survey ― commissioned by the left-leaning think tank Data for Progress and the advocacy groups Sunrise Movement and 350 Action and shared with HuffPost ― found 55 percent of eligible American voters support federal funding for guaranteed employment. But the percentage of voters who opposed the policy decreased from 23 percent to 18 percent when those guaranteed jobs are green.
Trump voters in particular viewed a green jobs guarantee more favorably, with 35 percent in support and 36 percent opposed. By comparison, just 30 percent of Trump voters supported a guaranteed job without an environmental focus, while 45 percent opposed.
Making the guaranteed jobs green garnered strong support across all regions of the country. In cities, 45 percent of respondents said they supported a green job guarantee, compared to 43 percent who were in favor of a less specific jobs guarantee. In rural districts, 35 percent favored a green job guarantee, while 31 percent supported one for regular jobs. In the suburbs, 33 percent were for green jobs versus 25 percent for a jobs guarantee.
The survey, conducted by the firm YouGov from July 13-16, polled 1,515 eligible voters and is weighted to be nationally representative.
The poll also suggested that campaigning on a green jobs guarantee could help drive voter turnout. Fifty-one percent of eligible voters said they would be more likely to support a candidate running on a green jobs platform, compared to just 20 percent opposed.
Forty-eight percent said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate running on a platform of 100 percent renewable energy by 2030. That deadline is more ambitious than the 2035 target mandated in the Off Fossil Fuels for a Better Future Act, the bill Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) proposed last September and the most progressive climate legislation in Congress to date.
Young voters in particular support aggressive climate policies. More than half of voters under 30 said they would be more supportive of a candidate running on renewable energy or green jobs. By comparison, just 15 percent of millennial voters said a 100 percent renewable platform would make them less likely to vote for a candidate, and 10 percent said the same about green jobs.
The findings highlight the extent to which the partisan divide over climate change diminishes when framed outside the increasingly tribalist binary of “belief” in the underlying science. Fifty-seven percent of Americans understand that global warming is mostly caused by humans, according to 2018 polling data from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.
“Progressives can run on green jobs literally anywhere,” said Sean McElwee, the co-founder of Data for Progress. “It’s time to stop looking to the center and look to the movements among young progressives for environmental justice.”
The results also illuminate a path forward for Democrats as the party wrestles with how to deal with a fossil fuel industry that is primarily responsible for anthropogenic global warming.
Last month, the Democratic National Committee voted to backtrack on its two-month-old ban on corporate donations from oil, gas and coal companies. The move came at the behest of powerful unions who support lucrative pipeline projects, spotlighting the tension between the Democratic Party’s labor and environmental factions.
Pipeline construction pays considerably better than renewable energy projects and relies more on organized labor. Welding inspectors averaged nearly $36 per hour, while solar installers earned just over $16, according to data from the salary comparison site PayScale. Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows wind turbine technicians averaged $25.91 per hour last year.
“It’s time to stop looking to the center and look to the movements among young progressives for environmental justice.”
Requiring union wages for federally-backed renewable energy jobs could change that equation.
A handful of high-profile Democratic candidates this year are running on a “Green New Deal,” a reference to the 1930s spending programs enacted after the Great Depression that established many of the country’s infrastructure landmarks.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the likely next representative for New York’s 14th Congressional District, is calling for “the investment of trillions of dollars and the creation of millions of high-wage jobs.” Rashida Tlaib, the progressive running to replace Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) in Detroit, said she supports a Green New Deal. Randy Bryce, the union ironworker and Democratic nominee in Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District, vowed to fix “crumbling” infrastructure by investing in federally-backed renewable energy jobs with union pay. Kevin de León, the California lawmaker who authored the historic 100 percent carbon-free electricity bill passed last week, said he would support a Green New Deal if he defeats U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a fellow Democrat, in November’s election.
The policy is gaining traction among statewide candidates, too. Andrew Gillum, who won Florida’s Democratic gubernatorial primary in a surprise upset late last month, proposed dealing with his state’s “climate change crisis” by creating “good-paying jobs that you can’t outsource overseas.”