If Georgia Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock wishes to win next month’s Senate runoff election he should look into climate policy, according to exit polling.
In his first matchup against Republican Herschel Walker–in which neither candidate cracked 50 percent, leading to the Dec. 6 runoff–Warnock attracted significant support from young people, the voting bloc most likely to be concerned about climate change.
This is according to post-election research by Tufts University. And it’s part of a national trend that shows voters younger than 30 helped turn the tide for Democrats in key swing states and blunt an expected Republican wave in the midterm elections.
“Youth increase their electoral participation, lead movements and make their voices heard on key issues affecting their communities,” according analysis by Tufts University’s Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement.
Overall, 27 percent of voters aged 18 to 29 turned out for the midterms, the second-highest percentage on record, according to the Tufts University data. But that number rose to 31 percent in key swing states including Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin–and Georgia.
Warnock won 49.4 percent of the overall vote in this month’s midterm elections, compared to 48.5 percent for Walker. Georgia election rules require a runoff if no candidate breaks the 50 percent threshold.
Young Georgians accounted for 116,000 votes of Warnock’s total share, according to Tufts. This is almost three times the margin he has over Walker.
In Georgia, young voters were about 13 percent of the electorate, higher than any other swing state won by Democrats, Tufts found. They voted for Warnock by approximately 2 to 1.
Young people are more likely to be concerned about climate policies than any other voting bloc, polling has long demonstrated.
“To get any young person out of an apartment and into the voting box, the candidate must be relying upon issues related to climate change. I think it’s just a kind of table stakes,” said John Della Volpe who is director of polling at Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics. He is also the author of “Fight”: How Gen Z is channeling their fear and passion to save America .”
The Tufts analysis found that more than 8 in 10 young midterm voters said climate was a very serious or somewhat serious issue.
In Georgia young voters, especially voters of color, are highly motivated by climate policies, according to Sara Suzuki, a postdoctoral researcher from Tufts, who helped analyze the results.
” Not taking climate change more seriously is a missed chance,” she stated. “Communities of color feel climate issues more acutely, which helps explain why young people .”
are really prioritizing climate.
In the Georgia Senate race, two candidates are at opposite ends of climate policy spectrum.
Climate is already creating jobs. Last month, Hyundai opened a $5.5 billion electric-vehicle and battery plant in Georgia that will create 8,000 jobs. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, Georgia is seventh in the country for solar installations.
Warnock was present at the Savannah groundbreaking, along with Republican Gov. Brian Kemp. Brian Kemp told reporters that climate change is a “moral issue” then he praised his green credentials.
” I’ve also proposed a lot legislation focused on creating green energy future, from electric vehicles to solar manufacturing to investment in solar power,” he said.
In contrast, Walker stated last week that the United States wasn’t ready to embrace more renewable energy.
” We’re not ready, we’re still not ready,” he stated. “We need to keep those gas-guzzling vehicles. We have good emissions from those cars .”
Although it will take a few more weeks to complete the exit polling data, early results from the midterm show that climate was a motivating factor in many voters’ decisions.
The Associated Press VoteCast found that inflation and the economy dominated voter concerns–and that about half of voters said it was their top concern. No other issue came close, but about 10 percent of voters listed other issues as their top concern, including climate, abortion, health care and gun policy.
Young people voted at the second highest rate in any midterm. This was second only to the 2018 elections during the term of former President Donald Trump.
In fact, Generation Z and millennial voters under 30 voted in such a large number that they canceled out every voter 65 and older, according to Della Volpe, who has overseen Harvard’s youth polling since 2000. That effectively decided the fate of the election because young people overwhelmingly voted in favor of Democrats, at 63 percent, with 35 percent voting for Republicans, he found.
Millennials have now won three consecutive elections for Democrats. By 2024, they will account for nearly 40 percent of votes, Della Volpe noted.
Young voters are looking for candidates who share their values, and who recognize that climate change poses significant challenges to their generation. “If a candidate doesn’t align with climate science or does not reflect the views of young people, I don’t think there is anything they can do to win their support.” It’s essential,” Della Volpe said.
There was evidence of the power and influence of the youth vote across races in the country, especially in the close races.
In the Arizona governor’s race, Democrat Katie Hobbs eked out a narrow victory of about 20,000 votes over Republican Kari Lake. Young voters accounted for about 60,000 votes in the state, according to Tufts’ estimates.
In Nevada, Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto won reelection over Republican Adam Laxalt, securing Democratic control of the Senate by 9,000 votes. Young people accounted for a net 28,000 votes, Tufts found.
In Arizona and Pennsylvania, young voters overwhelmingly voted in favor of the Democrats. Pennsylvania Lt. Governor. John Fetterman (D) received 70 percent of their vote, compared to Republican Mehmet Oz’s 28 percent. In Arizona, incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly received 76 percent of the young vote, compared to the 20 percent received by Republican Blake Masters.
For a long time young voters have been left out, Jack Lobel, deputy communications director at Voters of Tomorrow, a youth voter organization. He said that Democrats have made progress on a number their issues over the past two years. Young people were motivated to vote by passing a major climate bill, working to protect abortion rights, and addressing student loan debt.
” It was clear that young voters wanted to elect people who care about the future. This is especially evident when it comes to climate change issues. “President Biden certainly moved the needle with voters regarding the Inflation Reduction Act. It’s a symbol of his support .”
Reprinted from E&E News with permission from POLITICO, LLC. Copyright 2022. E&E News delivers vital news to professionals in the energy and environment industries.