Poll finds climate change to be big factor for youth voters in 2024 election

The impact of climate issues make them an important issue in this election. Photo by: Matthew Galgano

OSWEGO, N.Y. — Studies show that climate issues are some of the most important issues for youth voters in the upcoming 2024 presidential election.

The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) is the nation’s leading research center on young people’s civic and political engagement. CIRCLE did a national survey of young people on their likelihood to vote. This research-based poll shows a lot about the issues that young voters prioritize in the upcoming election.

“Young people… are saying that they’re prioritizing climate because over 60% of them report that they view it as a serious threat. And nearly three-quarters say that their communities have experienced or been affected by climate change in some way,” said Jennifer McAndrew, director of communications, strategy and planning at the Tisch College of Civil Life at Tufts University.

Within the CIRCLE study, the polling found that young people who say that climate is their top issue are 20 points more likely to vote than other young people. The issue of climate change was a huge differentiator in terms of which candidate will receive support. Within the group of young people who prioritize climate issues, 65% said they would support the Democratic candidate while only 5% said they would support the Republican. 

“In our pre-election polling, 72% of young people who chose addressing climate change as among their top three issues said that they were extremely likely to vote,” said McAndrew. “And that is slightly higher than some of the other issues, like abortion or gun violence in terms of likelihood to vote.” 

CIRCLE’s survey found that many young people prioritize climate issues because it has personally affected them. Forty-two percent of young people said that they faced poor air quality, 41% said that they faced unusually hot temperatures, and 24% said they experienced severe hurricanes or floods. 

Within the CIRCLE study, about half of those surveyed said they had not heard much of the federal government’s actions on climate.

“So I think what you’re seeing with that is that there’s a significant information gap among young voters in this area, or an opportunity… for campaigns and advocacy organizations to be reaching them with information around addressing climate change,” said McAndrew.

The New York League of Conservation Voters has done a lot to encourage youth turnout at the polls. The organization has an education fund that allocates funds to informing people on climate issues in order to raise awareness and encourage political action. 

“We often say here, the most important thing you can do for the environment and to affect environmental policy is to vote. So we are constantly out there educating people on the issues,” said Devin Callahan, the communications director of NYLCV.

NYLCV also has a campaign called “Our Vote is Our Power” in which they encourage low-propensity voters to vote and raise awareness of environmental issues. The organization is also partnering with Power to the Polls with the goal to have more youth involved in the polling process. 

NYLCV is aiming to raise awareness for many issues for this upcoming election. Renewable energy and a transition to electric school buses are some of the main ones they are targeting. 

“We’re looking to increase transmission, increase renewable energy development, and make sure the buildings we live and work in, the cars and buses we drive in, are able to run on clean electric energy,” said Callahan.

In 2023, New York saw its hottest year on record, floods that damaged New York City’s subway systems and state parks, and experienced some of the worst air quality in the world from wildfires in Canada. 

“So the notion that we might be protected by location or virtue of something else from the impacts of climate change has certainly gone out the window. And I think you can see what a future would look like if we don’t take the actions we need to know. And I think that will serve to drive turnout of the polls,” said Callahan.

The organization is using its resources to influence a huge youth voter turnout because of how strongly young voters feel about climate right now.

“I would say there’s the time left they have and there is a long future ahead of them that could be altered greatly if we don’t take action on climate change,” said Callahan. “And I think that’s really the urgency of the crisis and the impact starting to come down is really what’s going to drive the passion and the turnout.”

NYLCV has released their endorsements for the 2024 election. They endorsed Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand for the U.S. Senate along with many other candidates in the State Assembly and House. To see their full list of endorsements visit https://nylcv.org/endorsements.