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Independent, objective, nonpartisan research
Blog Post · August 22, 2019

Democrats View Environmental Policy as Critical in Upcoming Primary

Photo of Bixby Bridge

Climate change is becoming a defining issue for voters in next year’s presidential election. According to PPIC’s latest statewide survey on the environment, record-high shares of Californians are concerned about the impacts of global warming, overwhelming majorities disapprove of the way President Trump is handling environmental issues, and most likely voters say presidential candidates’ positions on the environment are important in determining their vote next year.

With California’s presidential primary a little more than six months away, eight in ten likely voters say that the candidates’ positions on the environment are important (44% very, 36% somewhat) in determining their vote. Democratic likely voters (64%) are far more likely than independents (34%) and Republicans (20%) to say candidates’ positions on the environment are very important. In addition to partisan divisions, there are significant generational differences—even within parties, Democratic likely voters age 18 to 44 (76%) are much more likely than those age 45 and older (58%) to say candidates’ environmental positions are very important.

With the environment critical for many Democrats, especially younger voters, whom do they support in the 2020 presidential primary? Among likely voters who are registered Democrats or are Democratic-leaning independents, and who say candidates’ environmental positions are very important, support is greatest for Kamala Harris (19%), Elizabeth Warren (18%), Bernie Sanders (12%), and Joe Biden (11%). (Candidates mentioned are those who polled 10% or higher). Notably, nearly a quarter (24%) of those who say the environment is very important are currently undecided. Here, too, there are differences across age groups. Likely voters age 18 to 44 concerned about the environment name Warren (23%), Sanders (20%), and Harris (15%) as their top primary choices, while those age 45 and older name Harris (22%), Biden (16%), and Warren (15%).

When asked about the Green New Deal, a policy proposal in Congress that aims to address climate change and stimulate economic growth, three in four likely voters who are registered Democrats or are Democratic-leaning independents say that candidates’ positions on the proposal are important in determining their vote (35% very, 39% somewhat). Among those who say positions on the Green New Deal are very important, 20% name Harris and Warren, 14% name Sanders, and 10% name Biden as their preferred candidate. Again of note, 20% of voters who say this is very important are undecided. Likely voters age 18 to 44 interested in the Green New Deal support Warren (27%), Sanders (24%), and Harris (15%), while among those age 45 and older support is greatest for Harris (24%), Warren (16%), and Biden (15%).

figure - Candidates’ Environmental Policies Matter to Democratic Likely Voters

These findings suggest that Californians will place high importance on environmental issues when making choices at the ballot in the coming year. With the next Democratic presidential debate and climate crisis town hall less than a month away, PPIC will be closely tracking the role of climate policies and other salient issues.

 

Topics

climate change Donald Trump elections global warming Joe Biden Political Landscape primary Statewide Survey