The 2020 Contenders Take Big Steps Towards Racial Equity in The Green New Deal

Sean McElwee (@SeanMcElwee) and Julian NoiseCat (@jnoisecat)

This week, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Kamala Harris released a new climate plan that would require racial equity impact assessments for all environmental regulations. In addition, Governor Jay Inslee proposed a new policy to require climate spending prioritize frontline communities, the low-income communities and communities of color disproportionately affected by climate change. This is the approach that has increasingly been favored by climate advocates, as one of us (NoiseCat) recently argued in The Guardian. In polling Data for Progress did to inform the New York Renews coalition, we found strong support for the frontline investments in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, a central component of the law. 

As part of the polling that informed our recent Green New Deal memo, Data for Progress asked “Would you support or oppose a new policy requiring the government to invest in clean energy infrastructure in poor communities and communities of color with disproportionate levels of pollution?” We find 57 percent of registered voters in support, 22 percent opposed and 21 percent unsure. 

 
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In another poll, we asked the same question, but explicitly cued tax hikes: “Would you support or oppose a new policy requiring the government to invest in clean energy infrastructure in poor communities and communities of color with disproportionate levels of pollution? This would be paid for by raising taxes.” Even with explicit tax hikes, this policy is still favored by voters overall (43 percent is support and 36 percent opposed) and narrowly favored by Independents (37 percent in support, 36 percent opposed).

We also polled “Would you support or oppose a mandated assessment of climate, environment, racial justice, tribal sovereignty, and public health impacts for all new infrastructure projects requiring federal permits?” and found 50 percent of voters in support, 26 percent of registered voters opposed and 24 percent unsure. That wording generated results statistically indistinguishable from a previous version of the question we had tested that did not include the racial equity framing (see here), “Would you support or oppose a mandated assessment of climate, environment, and public health impacts for all new infrastructure projects requiring federal permits?” (52 percent in support, 25 percent opposed and 23 percent unsure). 

 
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In the broader context of an electorate and Democratic base that is increasingly liberal on issues of racial justice, there are many policies that address racial inequality and are still popular. A commitment to racial equity must be a part of any Green New Deal. It’s good policy and good politics.


Sean McElwee (@SeanMcElwee) is a co-founder of Data for Progress.

Julian NoiseCat (@jnoisecat) is the Director of Green New Deal Strategy at Data for Progress.

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