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Republicans currently enjoy control of the presidency and both chambers of Congress. However, if this majority status is to continue in 2018 and beyond, the party must confront an issue that looms large: appealing to millennial voters.
The millennial population is growing, and projections have them surpassing Baby Boomers as the nation’s largest adult generation in 2019. Millennials could represent the largest voting bloc in this year’s crucial midterm elections. This trend should terrify Republicans, as millennials support Democrats by overwhelming margins.
A recent poll conducted by the Conservative Energy Network (CEN) and American Conservation Coalition (ACC) indicates that environmental and energy issues are incredibly important to millennials, regardless of their party affiliation. The environment and clean energy would be ideal starting points for a Republican effort to broaden the party’s appeal.
Given their youth, millennials express greater interest in protecting the environment for future generations. In this poll, 79 percent of respondents felt that a pro-clean energy candidate cares more about their family’s future.
Polls consistently show that the majority of Americans — including Republicans — favor expansions in alternative energy use. For Republicans, expressing support for clean energy makes sense politically and morally. Doing so would increase their electoral success and allow them to play an important role in protecting the environment.
Many discussions concerning the future of our environment begin with clean energy, and millennials across the political spectrum express strong support for a transition to renewable sources. The CEN and ACC poll found that 71 percent of Republicans and 74 percent of independents would like to see more emphasis placed on solar power. Millennial Republicans also expressed support for wind and hydropower by 39 and 54 point margins respectively. Even in the heavily Republican south, 59 percent of respondents believe that state electricity generation should come from clean energy sources.
Millennial support for clean energy extends beyond simple expressions of approval, as 66 percent of the poll’s respondents would be willing to pay $10 or more per month for electricity that originates from renewable sources.
Despite the apparent disconnect between themselves and millennials, Republicans should view this polling data in an opportunistic light. Large majorities of the respondents, including Democrats, expressed support for conservative-friendly energy policies. Of those surveyed, 92 percent favor an all-of-the-above energy approach. Respondents also support open and competitive state electricity markets by a 46 point margin.
These energy policies largely rely on the power of the free markets, which is what limited-government conservatives can rally behind. Doing so would translate into more youth votes cast for Republicans considering that 67 percent of the poll’s respondents are somewhat or much less likely to support a candidate that opposes clean energy development.
Millennials are taking their views on energy with them to the voting booth, and for Republicans to bridge the large gap in millennial support, they must begin to champion clean energy and environmental policies that rely on principles of limited government and free markets. This strategy would solidify support amongst young conservatives and more importantly attract independent millennial voters. Attracting support from young independents — a bloc that is largely up for grabs — would go a long way in preserving Republican viability in the future.
The time for the Republicans to support clean energy and prioritize environmental issues is now. This recently-released poll shows that these issues present a tremendous opportunity for Republicans to lead the way on environmental sustainability, and to enhance their favorability amongst a voting bloc that will have pronounced effects on elections in the near and distant future.