Will Climate Determine The Presidential Election?

Carlos Herrero Pexels

Add to the novel theories about whether Donald Trump or Joe Biden will be the president after the 2024 election the public’s perception of climate change. Perhaps just enough Americans think the climate crisis is among the most important problems facing America and the world to drive voters toward one candidate or the other. 

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According to the findings of researchers who wrote the academic paper “Climate change opinion and recent presidential elections,” “We find that climate change opinion has had a significant and growing effect on voting that favors the Democrats and is large enough to be pivotal to the outcomes of close elections.”

The researchers examined poll results from the 2016 and 2020 elections to determine whether opinions on climate affected voting patterns. They then created a model that translated this voting behavior into the decisions made by the Electoral College for those two elections. 

A Biden Win?

The major conclusion of the study was that Biden’s attitude on climate carried him to victory, with all other things being equal, as if they could have been. This is likely the Achilles’ heel of the conclusion. 

If today more people are worried that the environment has a huge effect on the quality of life in America and will be an existential issue several decades from now, the study’s takeaway is that climate attitudes could change a large number of votes this year. 

Finally, getting an answer about the election results forecast is difficult, if not impossible. It would require an “accurate” poll of presidential preferences in every state, plus attitudes about the environment in every state. Then, using those data to predict voting by the Electoral College would be a lot to ask.

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