That "Green Dream, or Whatever They Call It"

By Kevin Reuning (@KevinReuning)

The Green New Deal is likely one of the most talked about progressive political programs in a long time. The explosions of conversation about it on Twitter is clear, and with the introduction of Senator Markey and Representative Occasio-Cortez’s resolution there is now a clear focus on specific goals and plans. Recent Data for Progress / YouGov Blue polling has shown broad support for the resolution with 43 percent of Americans in support and 38 percent opposed, even when voters are told it will require tax hikes.

To dig deeper into why people are supporting or opposing the Green New Deal we asked Civis Analytics to survey 4,380 Americans and asked them if they support, oppose or are undecided about the Green New Deal and then followed up to ask why they had that position. To understand the responses we analyzed the results looking at what words were more common among supporters versus those who opposed plan. We again used the probabilistic model described here where each word was given a probability of being used for each group and then we look at the differences between the two groups.

The below chart compares the words used by supporters and opponents after stemming them (removing plurals and other endings) and creating unigrams, bigrams, trigrams (each word by itself, two words together, three words together). The Y axis shows significant differences in word usage with higher values meaning more likely to be used by supporters, and the X axis shows how frequent the n-grams were in the data.

Supporters often referenced the core issue tackled by the Green New Deal: climate change. But they also often used language that referenced jobs, clean energy, and other aspects of how the Green New Deal would create a new economy not just modify the economy we currently have (which is what something like Cap and Trade by itself would try to do). There were also references to the important of a challenge this is and how critical the Green New Deal is to our future.

In contrast opponents focused on the right-wing tropes that infect any discussion of progressive policy. There are mentions of socialism, the free market and taxes. There is also a set of phrases that demonstrate a basic disbelief in the Green New Deal even being possible: “pipe dream” and, realistic show up frequently enough to be identified. Opponents were a lot more likely to bring up the government’s role in the economy in general.


We were especially interested in the subset of supportive Republicans. We looked at the difference in language of supportive Democrats versus Republicans but found very little substantive differences. It seems that supportive Republicans speak a lot like supportive Democrats (scary). Looking at different word usage among Republican supporters versus opponents leads to an almost recreation of the plots above.


Opposition to the Green New Deal then looks to be mainly rooted in traditional conservative fears over government intervention. Support reflects a broader appeal to the American public which reflects that the Green New Deal targets not only vague, but existential crisis, but that the Green New Deal also impacts the daily lives of Americans through a new and better economy.

Kevin Reuning (@KevinReuning) is an assistant professor of political science at Miami University.

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