Are Texas Voters Coming Around on Climate Change?
This story originally appeared in Grist. It is republished here as part of Rolling Stone’s partnership with Covering Climate Now, a global collaboration of more than 250 news outlets to strengthen coverage of the climate story.
Does Texas, the metaphorical oil tank of the American petroleum operation, care about climate change? About two-thirds of it does, says a new poll of Texas voters — and we’re not just talkin’ Democrats.
Sixty-five percent of Lone Star State voters of all political persuasions are in favor of government action to combat the climate crisis, and a third are strongly in favor of it. That’s not the only good news.
Of the 1,660 voters polled by Climate Nexus, 74 percent said they’re more likely to vote for a candidate who supports boosting federal funding for renewable energy. Among Democrats, climate change ranks right up there with the economy and jobs when it comes to issues voters care about in the 2020 election — only health care and gun policy ranked higher. The poll was conducted in conjunction with Yale and George Mason universities.
Texas is still very much a red state. Though Beto O’Rourke came close last year, no Democrat has won a general election in a Texas statewide race since 1994. And last time I checked, the GOP is still firmly in the “don’t take away our straws and burgers” phase of climate denial. So why is Texas suddenly inclined to climate action?
It could have something to do with all of the extreme weather that has walloped the state in recent years. A little more than half of the voters surveyed in the poll think their state government is ill-equipped to handle a big hurricane in 2019. Four in 10 voters voiced concern over having to relocate if there is a major weather event. Most tellingly, close to nine out of 10 Texans say they have been touched by extreme heat within the past year, and nearly half of those surveyed said they have experienced flooding or drought.
Seeing or experiencing extreme weather may have an effect on how concerned voters are about climate change. That’s kind of a no-brainer. And in Texas, climate anxiety is beginning to translate into action. A number of Texas cities have unveiled their own climate action plans, the Houston Chronicle reports, and Houston is planning several climate-oriented debates for upcoming city council and mayoral races.