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Number of Americans passionate about climate change doubles under Trump’s presidency

The number of Americans who think climate change is a priority issue has doubled in the last five years, according to a new survey.

Climate change is now the second biggest issue Americans feel passionate about, after abortion. A quarter of Americans feel strongly about the issue, compared to 13% of the population in 2015, it found. Abortion is the biggest issue, still a top priority for 31% of Americans.

By comparison, the group of US adults who are passionate about gun control stays at around 17% and capital punishment hovers around 14%. The survey was a joint project of Stanford University and Washington research group, and ReconMR.

The findings could signal hope for the Democrats, where climate change is playing a key role in this year’s election. Former vice-president Joe Biden’s decision to put climate action at the heart of his presidential bid, further proves the survey’s findings – the issue is good politics.

Biden has launched a plan to invest $2 trillion in clean energy, jobs and infrastructure in the first four years of his first term if he beats Donald Trump to the presidency.

In launching the plan, he said: “We can live up to our responsibilities, meet the challenges of a world at risk of climate catastrophe, build more climate-resilient communities, put millions of skilled workers on the job and make life markedly better and safer for the American people all at once.”

Jon A. Krosnick, a professor at Stanford University and the leader of the project, suggested that Trump’s efforts to undermine climate science and government initiatives to deal with global warming could be behind the surge.

“The Democrats just gained a significant number of people who are powerfully now inclined toward them on the issue,” he said.

The Democrats can’t rest on their laurels; interest in an issue doesn’t always translate into votes. No wonder then that environmental groups have been at the forefront of efforts to raise voter turnout and ensure the integrity of the election, according to Myrna Perez, director of the voting rights and elections program at the Brennan Centre for Justice at NYU law school.

“Environmental groups are acutely aware of the fact that their agendas are not going to be accomplished if the vote is not free, fair and accessible,” said Perez. “Reform generally is not going to happen unless our democracy is representative and robust and participatory – and the environmental groups are getting it.”

The researchers say the findings are all the more interesting in the wake of Covid-19 as concern about the environment can be often be seen as “luxury goods”. “According to one theoretical perspective, people in contemporary societies can afford to worry about protecting the planet’s natural environment only if their basic survival needs have been satisfied,” they write.

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