Manchin’s climate pivot is smart policy

While voters may not rank the climate as high as the economy on a list of concerns, Mildenberger doesn’t think it’s the most important metric. Asking where the climate lands in a ranked list, Mildenberger notes, obscures just how popular climate policy can be when paired with life improvements for working-class people, like affordable housing or wage increases. minimum. It’s an increasingly prominent tactic of the climate movement, popularized in recent years by the Green New Deal and its various state and municipal offshoots. Mildenberger’s research finds that such “clustering” dramatically increases support for climate action, especially among voters of color. Such research completely undoes the idea that public opinion on climate should be viewed in a political vacuum, apart from so-called “economic” issues, or that climate should ever be sacrificed to other issues. Manchin may be late, but this week, at least, he’s right to talk about fixing the climate and inflation at the same time.

Nor is it true that voters are distracted from climate issues when experiencing another type of crisis, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, for example. Mildenberger and his colleagues found, in an article published just this month by Cambridge University Press, that measures to combat Covid-19 were more popular when integrated with climate action and that indeed, drawing an analogy between the two crises increased respondents’ opinion. concern about climate change. An independent team of researchers, in 2020, investigated the Finite Pool of Worry hypothesisthe idea that the public can only worry about a few issues at a time – and found there was no evidence for this (if it wasn’t true in 2020, with Trump still in power and everyday life impossible almost everywhere due to a pandemic, it’s hard to imagine when that would be). Indeed, another survey, taken at the worst time of the pandemic, found that two-thirds of Americans believe the government should be doing more to tackle climate change. While it was true that the public followed climate news less closely when the pandemic was at its worst, concern about the climate has not diminished. Instead, being personally affected by Covid-19 was associated with more, not less, climate concern.

Of course, inflation looms larger in most people’s minds than any other issue. Manchin and Schumer are right to name their bill after him. We are reminded of high prices every time we go to the store and shop for dinner. Even when inflation shows signs of slowing down, the media is always there to sow concern, and we are vulnerable, as consumption is so entrenched in our daily lives. For many people, inflation imposes truly alarming new financial stresses. For others, it is more of a psychological injury. Getting a new job might help our household budget more than high gas prices, but we see gas prices every day and still get mad (behavioral economists use the phrase “the pain of paying to describe how the outrage we feel in the act of paying for something can outweigh the material hardship of spending it. This explains why many of us get crazier about gas prices than the cost of school fees or health care (we pay more often for gas) And of course Covid-19 worried us when we couldn’t see our grandparents or send our children to school But what the research reveals is that we can worry about more than one thing, and most voters value solutions to the climate crisis, no matter how many other issues we juggle.

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