Public opinion is lining up behind a Green New Deal, but support among Democrats and Republicans in the Senate seems to be lagging.
When U.S. Senator Ed Markey from Massachusetts introduced a resolution in the Senate calling for the creation of a Green New Deal in early February, it had 12 Democratic cosponsors, including Markey. In a month’s time, it still has...12 cosponsors. Opinion-makers will say that the seeming untenable and tangential components of the resolution are keeping other Democrats away—the general commitments to universal healthcare, affordable housing, and economic security. Yet these goals are just that: aspirations of what the Federal government should aim to achieve for the country, not specific policy prescriptions that chain a Senator to a vote they might regret in the future.
What is conveyed more concretely in the Green New Deal resolution is the large mobilization of federal resources to accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels and toward clean, renewable, and carbon-free energy and create millions of new jobs in the process. This transition is not some “green pipe dream”; it’s actually underway and quite far along in some states.
For this reason alone, many Senators should be supporting a Green New Deal, but let’s look several wildly obvious reasons that the Senate should be supporting a Green New Deal.
First, A Green New Deal is Popular In States with Democratic Senators
Data for Progress commissioned research from Civis Analytics, who surveyed 4,803 likely voters between February 6th and February 15th, 2019 on the Green New Deal (see wording below). When modeled across all the states, we found a Green New Deal already has popular support in the states that Democratic Senators represent, with the exception of West Virginia. The Green New Deal has net positive support in 41 states that contain 36 Democratic Senators and 34 Republicans who have not endorsed the Green New Deal.
Second, Clean Energy Jobs are Everywhere! And They Hold More Power in Electing Their Senator.
Half of the states have more than 50,000 jobs each in the clean energy and energy efficiency industries. This is according to the 2017 U.S. Energy and Employment Report from the U.S. Department of Energy.
“Clean Energy and Energy Efficiency” includes job counts in categories under Electric Power Generation (Solar Electric, Wind Electric, Traditional Hydro Electric, Nuclear), Fuels (Corn Ethanol, Other Ethanol/Non-Woody Biomass, Woody Biomass), Transmission & Distribution (Storage, Smart Grid), and Energy Efficiency (Energy Star & Efficient Lighting, High Efficiency & Renewable Heating and Cooling, Advanced Materials and Insulation).
Even more interesting, the types of clean energy and energy efficiency jobs that would benefit and grow under a Green New Deal already outweigh the number of jobs in the fossil fuel industries in 44 states—often by an order of magnitude. Viewing this collective of clean energy jobs as a voting bloc, clean energy and energy efficiency jobs hold significantly more power in electing their Senator than voters working in fossil fuel-related industries.
“Fossil Fuel Energy” includes job counts in categories under Electric Power Generation (Natural Gas, Coal, Oil and Other Fossil Fuels) and Fuels (Coal, Oil and Other Petroleum, Natural Gas). For this analysis, all other jobs categories are considered neutral to a Green New Deal as they support the energy sector regardless of feedstocks or technology type.
So it’s Strange 12 Democrats Seem to Get What Their Democratic Peers Don’t
When you consider these two factors—voter support for a Green New Deal plus the electoral power of clean energy jobs in their respective state—it makes little sense why more Democratic Senators do not support the vision, particularly when their peers do.
It is not like the 12 Democratic sponsors have grossly miscalculated the voter support and economic potential of a Green New Deal in their state. We find they actually sit in the middle of their peers and may just have read their respective constituencies better.
From our earlier analysis of the 115th Congress, House Democrats appeared mostly uninterested in environmental policy, including a more conservative stance on renewable energy, despite strong public support. The question is whether this holds true in the Senate. While most states, including most states governed by Republicans, now have more green and clean energy jobs than fossil fuel jobs, there does not seem to be much evidence that this is affecting electoral or policy outcomes on the federal level.
We would expect more correlation between a strong clean energy sector and support for a Green New Deal
Contrary to expectations, there is not yet compelling evidence that the relative prominence of clean energy jobs over fossil fuel jobs is correlated to support for the Green New Deal resolution among Senate Democrats. On average, Democratic Senators who have cosponsored the Green New Deal come from states with a slightly higher net of clean energy jobs and fossil fuel jobs but not by much.
If we look a little deeper, this association seems to disappear entirely. State-level public support for the Green New Deal is strongly correlated with state partisanship and education. It is also somewhat correlated with the amount of clean energy jobs, since legislatures in bluer states are much more proactive in promoting clean energy. Including the net of green and fossil fuel jobs with state-level public support for GND in a simple regression removes the apparent association. Green New Deal cosponsors have been making the policy case by pointing to economic upsides of expanding the green and clean energy sector, but this argument does not appear to have hit home yet. We would expect Senators in states with stronger clean energy sectors to be much more responsive and eager to sign onto a Green New Deal than they are now. Additional digging is needed to understand the reservations for supporting obvious job growth opportunities in their states.
In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, House Speaker Pelosi acknowledged the roll of moneyed interests in blocking climate action, in addition to Republican obstruction. She suggested that making the Green New Deal a central issue in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election would be the best way to raise the profile of the climate crisis and generate the public pressure needed to force legislators to take action. This is undoubtedly correct, as our analysis shows that if legislators simply responded to the interests of their constituents then Democrats would be unanimously in support of a Green New Deal already. Clearly, workers in industries that would benefit from a Green New Deal need to recognize their collective vested interests and join up with frontline activists to increase pressure on legislators.
In helping that cause, we’ve put together some resources you can use to make the case for the Green New Deal to your Senators. Enjoy!
You can use the factsheets below to contact your Senators and let them know which parts of the Green New Deal are popular in your state. Use the below map to get your sheet and make your voice heard!
Colin McAuliffe (@ColinJMcAuliffe) is a co-founder of Data for Progress.
Greg Carlock (@gregorytcarlock) is the Green New Deal Research Director at Data for Progress.
Green New Deal survey language:
“Some Democrats in Congress are proposing a Green New Deal bill which would phase out the use of fossil fuels, with the government providing clean energy jobs for people who can’t find employment in the private sector. All jobs would pay at least $15 an hour, include healthcare benefits and collective bargaining rights. This would be paid for by raising taxes on incomes over $200,000 dollars a year by 15 percentage points.
Democrats say this would improve the economy by giving people jobs, fight climate change and reduce pollution in the air and water.
Republicans say this would cost many jobs in the energy sector, hurt the economy by raising taxes, and wouldn't make much of a difference because of carbon emissions from China.
Do you support or oppose this policy?”