As Election Day nears, a majority of registered voters in the United States say climate change will be a very (42%) or somewhat (26%) important issue in making their decision about whom to vote for in the presidential election, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted July 27-Aug. 2.
Registered voters supporting Democratic candidate Joe Biden and Republican President Donald Trump have very different perspectives on the issue. Nearly seven-in-ten Biden voters (68%) say climate change is very important to their vote. By contrast, only 11% of Trump supporters say the same. In fact, climate change ranks last in importance (out of 12 issues tested in a recent survey) for Trump supporters.
These findings are from a recent Pew Research Center study conducted to understand American voters’ attitudes about the 2020 presidential election and campaigns. We surveyed 11,001 U.S. adults – including 9,114 registered voters – between July 27 and Aug. 2, 2020.
Everyone who took part is a member of Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel that is recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses. This way nearly all U.S. adults have a chance of selection. The survey is weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education and other categories. Read more about the ATP’s methodology.
The issue of climate change has been growing in importance for Americans over time. Six-in-ten adults now view climate change as a major threat to the well-being of the U.S. – up from 44% who said this in 2009. And a January survey – fielded before the coronavirus outbreak – found a rising share citing climate change as a top priority for the president and Congress. In both instances, rising concern has been concentrated among Democrats, but not Republicans.
Still, the share of all voters who say climate change will be very important to their vote (42%) trails behind other leading issues such as the economy (79%), health care (68%) and the coronavirus outbreak (62%).
For Biden supporters, climate change is among several high-level issue priorities this election. Although 68% say it is very important to their vote, this ranks behind majorities on issues like health care (84%), the coronavirus outbreak (82%) and racial and ethnic inequality (76%) – and about on par with the level of priority given to economic inequality (65%). Climate change ranks ahead of several other issues for Biden voters, including foreign policy and violent crime.
Liberal Biden supporters are especially likely to prioritize climate change in their 2020 vote. Nearly eight-in-ten Biden supporters who describe their political views as liberal (79%) say climate change is a very important election issue, compared with a somewhat smaller majority of moderate and conservative Biden voters (60%).
Climate change ranks higher on the minds of White and Hispanic than Black Biden voters. About half of Black Biden supporters (54%) consider climate change to be very important to their vote; larger shares of Hispanic (75%) and White (71%) Biden supporters say the same.
Trump voters place low importance on the issue of climate change, but there are some differences in voter priorities by ideology, gender and generation.
Two-in-ten moderate or liberal Trump supporters say climate change is very important to their 2020 vote, compared with just 6% of those who describe their views as conservative.
Among Trump supporters, women as well as Millennials and Gen Zers are somewhat more likely than men and older supporters to say the issue of climate change is important to their vote this fall. Still, across all major demographic groups, no more than two-in-ten Trump voters place high importance on the issue.
Biden and Trump supporters are far apart in how they prioritize the issue of climate change. But a May survey found Republicans and Democrats agree on some policies aimed at reducing the impacts of climate change. For instance, 90% of Democrats and Democratic leaners and 78% of Republicans and those who lean to the GOP say they would favor providing a tax credit to businesses for developing carbon capture and storage technology.