Campaigners say more than 15m people who care about the environment did not vote in the 2014 midterms – can they create a ‘green wave’ this November?
Oliver MilmanLast modified on Fri 12 Oct 2018 19.10 BST
Among the motivating issues for voters in US elections, the environment is typically eclipsed by topics such as healthcare, the economy and guns. But the upcoming midterms could, belatedly, see a stirring of a slumbering green giant.
“The environmental movement doesn’t have a persuasion problem, it has a turnout problem,” said Nathaniel Stinnett, the founder of the Environmental Voter Project, which is aiming to spur people who care about the natural world and climate change to the ballot box. “This group has more power than it realizes. In the midterms we want to flood the zone with environmentalists.”
Any such voting surge would go some way to heeding the increasingly urgent warnings from scientists about climate change. A major UN climate report released this week said the world risks worsening floods, droughts, species loss and poverty without “rapid and far-reaching transitions” to energy, transport and land use.
“We show it can be done within laws of physics and chemistry,” said Jim Skea, a coauthor of the exhaustive report. “The final tick box is political will. We cannot answer that.”
An obstacle in the US is the large pool of environmental voters who don’t actually vote, according to public records and polls analyzed by the Environmental Voter Project. It estimates more than 15 million people who rank the environment as a top tier issue didn’t vote in the 2014 midterms. Since its creation in 2015, the voter project claims it has increased turnout of target voters by as much as 4.5% in elections.
In 2018, it is aiming to reach 2.4 million of these voters across six states as part of a turnout effort that could help swing some key races. An army of 1,800 volunteers will knock on doors, fire off text messages, make calls and send mailouts. The “punchline” of the Environmental Voter Project, Stinnett said, is that it doesn’t talk to voters about the environment at all. It simply tries to get them out to vote.
“We are already targeting people who care about the environment, all we want to do is get them to vote on election day,” he said. “Peer and social pressure are the best ways – we will send someone a letter saying ‘did you know 93 people in your building turned out to vote last time?’ We play to societal norms and expectations.