The NRDC Action Fund has been questioning the conventional wisdom in recent days as we challenge the assertion that support for clean energy legislation somehow makes a candidate less likely to be reelected. It turns out that the conventional wisdom seems to be based on no more than the conservatives' desire that it be true; actual data provide little if any support for the notion.
To see all of the races polled, you can go here. We didn't release today's poll with the others because we were focused on voter attitudes about clean energy in tossup House races where the incumbent voted for the House climate bill known as the American Clean Energy & Security Act (ACES).
Today, I wanted to focus on one particular race where this idea has been retailed: the role Mike Castle's vote for the ACES played in his primary defeat.
As most readers know, senior House member and Republican environmental champion Mike Castle got beaten by Tea-Party darling Christine O'Donnell in the September primary. Immediately after the election, several pundits and Congressman Castle himself suggested that vote for ACES may have been a factor in his election defeat.
We think this story is a bit more complicated. Our polls, conducted by Public Policy Polling, found that an astounding 81% of Delaware voters support investments in clean, renewable energy. That compares to only 46% who favor building more nuclear power plants and 38% who are interested in more coal.
Further, 66% of respondents agree with supporters who say "the energy bill will create millions of new jobs, reduce our use of foreign oil, hold corporate polluters accountable and cut the pollution that causes climate change" over those who contend "the bill will cost companies money and is like an energy tax that would actually reduce jobs." This despite the enormous funding and outspoken comments of our opposition. A whopping 65% went a step further by saying they were more likely to vote for a candidate who also supported the energy bill described.
If you look deeper into the question regarding which side one agrees with when talking about a clean energy bill, you can see that among Republicans it was a statistical dead heat with 38% of Rs siding with supporters and 42% joining up with the opposition. (The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus four points.) Given the amount of opposition money spent by fossil fuel interests and the crazy mistruths about this issue in Delaware, you might have thought that support for a clean energy economy would be dramatically lower. However, as Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling has noted about similar results in other districts, one would have expected to see politically polarized results on this type of poll but that just isn't the case in Delaware or in most of America.
The indisputable fact is that the majority of voters polled recently in several states support Congressional efforts to address climate change. Despite the opposition's best (or should I say, worst) intentions, the public -- and more importantly for candidates, the voters -- get it.
As for Delaware, consider that there were just 57,500 people who voted in that state's Republican primary -- 30,475 of whom voted for Christine O'Donnell. The population of Delaware is 885,122. So, approximately 3% of people in Delaware supported O'Donnell's Tea Party anti-environmental extremism. That's rather short of a majority. When the majority speaks the fall, we are confident that Delaware voters will cast their votes for a candidate who supports addressing global warming.
If politicians are paying attention to voters, then there should be no covens of climate deniers in the Senate come next Congress.