1st Friday Focus on the Environment: The role of climate change and the environment in the 2024 election cycle

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ABOUT ANDREW BAUMANN:

Andrew Baumann began his career as a physicist before deciding to give up supercolliders for Senate campaigns. Since becoming a strategist and pollster 15 years ago, he has provided research and strategic advice to political campaigns, issue advocacy organizations, unions, and foundations.

Over the past decade and a half, Andrew has helped elect or re-elect Senators John Hickenlooper, Michael Bennet, Jacky Rosen, Catherine Cortez Masto, Gary Peters, Debbie Stabenow, Tammy Baldwin, Jon Tester, and Tom Udall, while also playing a significant role in helping move Colorado and Nevada in a decidedly blue direction.

Named one of the “winners” of the 2022 elections in Colorado and praised by the media for his “remarkably accurate” polling, Andrew helped guide Yadira Caraveo to an upset win in CO-08 that few thought was possible; in 2020 he advised Senate Majority PAC in their successful efforts to defeat Cory Gardner; and in 2018, he advised Congressman Jason Crow in his 11-point victory in CO-06 over Mike Coffman – who Colorado pundits had labeled as “unbeatable” after his 2016 victory.

In Nevada, Andrew advised the winning campaign of Senator Jacky Rosen, served as pollster for Democratic pick-ups (and holds) in both CD-3 and CD-4, and helped Senate Majority PAC and the DSCC elect Senator Catherine Cortez Masto in 2016 and re-elect her in 2022.

In 2022, Andrew also helped guide Gabe Vasquez and Wiley Nickel to wins in toss-up races in NM-02 and NC-13, respectively, and he led the polling for the Michigan State Senate Caucus’ historic, and successful, effort to recapture the chamber for the first time in 40 years.

In addition to his political work, Andrew has also polled for numerous advocacy groups with a particular focus on climate, clean energy and conservation issues, having worked with LCV, Environmental Defense Fund, Climate Power, the Sierra Club, and many others. His work in 2020 was instrumental in helping convince Joe Biden to make climate a centerpiece of his campaign and embrace a more ambitious climate plan.

Andrew has also become a leading pollster in the voting rights community, having polled for winning ballot measures to implement Automatic Voter Registration in Nevada (2018), join the National Popular Vote Compact in Colorado (2020), and expand and protect voting rights in Michigan (2022).

Andrew has also served as pollster and strategist for the National Education Association for over a decade, working with NEA and its affiliates in Virginia, Colorado, and Michigan on a range of issues, but with a particular focus on helping the union understand how to recruit and retain more members.

With degrees in Physics and Engineering from MIT and Stanford, Andrew also has extensive experience working with data scientists to develop new methodologies and implement innovative analytical data solutions for clients.

ABOUT LISA WOZNIAK:

Lisa Wozniak

Michigan League of Conservation Voters

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michiganlcv.org

Michigan League of Conservation Voters executive director Lisa Wozniak

Lisa’s career spans over two decades of environmental and conservation advocacy in the political arena. She is a nationally- recognized expert in non-profit growth and management and a leader in Great Lakes protections. Lisa is a three-time graduate from the University of Michigan, with a bachelor’s degree and two ensuing master’s degrees in social work and Education.

Lisa serves a co-host and content partner in 89.1 WEMU’s ‘1st Friday Focus on the Environment.’

RESOURCES:

Michigan League of Conservation Voters

Global Strategy Group

TRANSCRIPTION:

David Fair: This is 89 one WEMU, and welcome to the inaugural First Friday Focus on the Environment for 2024. I’m David Fair, and my partner and I look forward to another full year of productive and meaningful environmentally related conversations. Lisa Wozniak is not only my partner in this monthly conversation series, but she more importantly serves as executive director of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. Lisa, as you know all too well, environmental issues are closely tied to politics. And this is a presidential election year, and there’s going to be vital elections at all levels of government.

Lisa Wozniak: There will be indeed, Dave. So, Happy New Year to you, and welcome to 2024! And as we step into this new year, we consider environmental policy and those who are charged with enacting and implementing it. So, among the very early questions this cycle is to what degree are climate, energy, water issues playing among voters and candidates. And that’s why I’m delighted to have Andrew Baumann with us today. Andrew is a partner at Global Strategy Group, the largest progressive polling firm in the country. And so, Andrew, Happy New Year! And thank you so much for starting off the New Year with us.

Andrew Baumann: Happy New Year to you, and I’m glad you guys have me. Thank you so much.

David Fair: Well, let’s start right at the top. Andrew. It feels like the presidential race is nearly in full swing already, what with TV ads and wall-to-wall media coverage of President Biden and former President Trump and the various candidates. Michigan, as always, is a battleground state. If the election were held today, how do you see a race between those two shaking out?

Andrew Baumann: If the election were held today, I think it would be very close. And I think that there’s a very decent chance that Donald Trump would win. Now, the election isn’t being held today, and I actually think that when the election is held, the race is more likely to move towards Biden as he is the favorite to win the election. But I don’t think that would be the case if the election were held today.

Lisa Wozniak: So, you were part of helping the Biden campaign in 2020 really make clean energy and climate action a central part of his message. Three years later, does polling show he is winning on this issue with Americans?

Andrew Baumann: I mean, I think not yet. But this is really because the issue hasn’t been engaged in that way during this campaign. I mean, I think the background here and the most important thing to understand is that and those of us that care a lot about this issue, as I know all three of us do, we’re not necessarily representative of the entire population. We should not pretend that climate change is the number one issue or even one of the very top issues for voters. But it is important that it is growing in salience, and it plays just sort of a different role in the campaign, particularly a presidential campaign. And the way that Biden was able to use it successfully in 2020 is similar to how I think he can use it successfully in 2024. One is that while it’s not the number one issue for all voters, it is a very high issue, probably tied at the top, among Democratic voters and younger voters. And, as we all know, younger voters are a demographic that is difficult for Biden. He’s struggling with them right now. They’re less likely to turn out, though they usually perform better for Democrats. So, that’s an area where we, in the past, in 2020, we certainly saw this. And I think he has an opportunity in 2024 for youth climate to help engage those voters and turn them out, but also bring some of them back to the Democratic column who are a little bit down on him right now. But, beyond that, I think climate has become sort of a values issue, a sort of signal, right? That one of the things that we’ve seen is that it is no longer politically viable for a candidate to go out there and say that climate change isn’t real, the climate change isn’t a hoax, that even with voters on the Republican voters in the center right of the spectrum, everybody except the very hard right of the electorate believes that climate change is real and believes that climate change is a problem. And when they hear a candidate say, as Donald Trump has and continues to say that climate change is a hoax, that is a signal to them that they are that that candidate is very much outside of the mainstream, not connected with reality and not focused on the problems that matter to them. And, particularly, when you can tie it to other issues as you can with Trump, that sort of builds up an overall frame that can be very useful to the president as it was in 2020. But, beyond that, we all know that the economy is number one in voters’ minds. And even though the economy is strengthening, voters still feel very negatively about it. But, one of the president’s biggest accomplishments on the economy, and I think he has a good record to run on that, is the clean energy and climate provisions of the IRA–the Inflation Reduction Act. Those are already creating jobs and good paying jobs. But also, they, or perhaps more importantly, politically, they have the potential to bring down costs and energy costs for voters. So, I think that you’ll see the president engage around this issue from both a values perspective and an economic perspective, not necessarily just on the issue of climate as an issue.

David Fair: We’re talking with Andrew Baumann on 89 one WEMU’s First Friday Focus on the Environment. Andrew is a partner at Global Strategy Group and discussing early polling and looking at some of the races we’re going to touch on in 2024 in this presidential election year. Another candidate that will be stepping out is Democratic Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow, not seeking reelection. Now that’s become a hotly contested race in both major parties. What is your early outlook for that seat and its potential impact on environmental policy?

Andrew Baumann: Yeah. I mean, it’s huge that the the impact of that race is going to be huge on environmental policy and on everything else. One of the key races is that who holds the Senate. And, you know, it’s going to be a dogfight. Obviously, Democrats have done quite well in Michigan at the Senate level with Senator Stabenow and Senator Peters over the last decade or so. And I think Congressman Slotkin, the likely Democratic nominee, is a very strong candidate for Democrats and gives makes Democrats the favorite to hold this. But, we know that Michigan is going to be a swing state. It is going to be tightly contested. And that’s not a sure thing. I feel pretty good about her chances, just generally because I think she has a strong record and will have a good message. And we’ve seen, at the Senate level, voters in Michigan tend to prefer Democrats, though not necessarily by overwhelming margins, but it’s going to be a dogfight. And, I think, you know, in the state of Michigan, environmental issues are perhaps even more salient than in most places that goes to climate and goes to clean energy. But, the issue of water, water quality, drinking water in Michigan is a huge one with everything that happened in Flint and around the rest of the state, PFAS contamination, with the importance of the Great Lakes to the state’s economy and culture. And we’ve seen that before. And I worked both for Senator Stabenow and Senator Peters in some of their previous campaigns. And those issues were issues that we ran on and ran ads on and used to win those campaigns. So, I would expect to see in Michigan in that Senate race, and I’m not working for Congresswoman’s Slotkin, I should say that. So, this is all speculation, but I think you’ll see those races and those issues come to the forefront in the campaign. And, obviously, it’ll make a big difference on policy. You know, we’ve seen, at the state level, the kind of policies that Michigan has implemented lately. And there’s opportunity at the national level to continue that progress if Biden wins and if Democrats can hold the Senate. And I think there’s a good chance the Democrats can take the House back. So, holding the Senate for Democrats is going to be a difficult thing considering we’re playing defense. But the only way to do it is if Slotkin wins. And so, that race could be the difference between a Democratic trifecta in Washington where there’s really an opportunity to make a lot more progress on climate, on clean energy and clean water, and either a gridlocked government or a Republican-controlled Washington where they continue to roll back things like the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the stuff that President Biden has done on climate and clean energy.

Lisa Wozniak: So, to your point here in Michigan, we’ve just wrapped up a legislative session where, at the state level, Democrats control the House, Senate and the governor’s office for the first time in decades. From your perspective, how are approval ratings looking from Michigan’s governor and Legislature after this busy session?

Andrew Baumann: Yeah. You know, I haven’t seen numbers in the immediate past week or two. But everything I’ve seen for the governor in over the last month–month and a half, two months–is very strong. You know, Michigan is a contested state. There is polarization everywhere. So, you don’t have many governors in the country that have, like, 70% approval ratings anymore. And Whitmer does. But her approval ratings are up near 60%, which is very, very good, particularly in a state like this. And, I think that that’s one of the reasons why we have the trifecta, right, that she won by a very large margin in 2022, which was thanks to her strength, but also the weakness of her opponent. And that helped bring Democrats along. So, her numbers and the numbers for Democrats in the state have been quite strong. And I think that the progress that they’ve made on a lot of issues, including on the environment, is only going to help that. You know, there were some controversial things, obviously, in this session. And, we’re going to see Republicans, and we have seen Republicans try to attack the governor and Democrats on certain things. But, all in all, I think the things that they did were quite popular, specifically when it comes to the legislation that they passed on energy and climate. You know, I think that there is a conventional wisdom out there, and I certainly see it from my opponents as a Democratic pollster across the aisle often like to label Democrats as radical environmentalists and attacked us for supporting clean energy and supposedly opposing fossil fuel production. But everything that I’ve seen in the research that I have done leads me to believe that they are very disconnected where voters are. And where voters are is that they really want to see the country and the state move to clean energy. Now, how fast they want to do that and how fast they want to move away from fossil fuels, there are shades of gray in that. But they want to see more clean energy. They want to see us tackle climate. They want to see us tackle pollution and the kind of things that are the centerpiece of what Michigan Democrats passed here are very popular, particularly a clean energy standard. I understand clean energy by 2040. That is a dead set political winner every time I’ve pulled it. So, I haven’t seen specific numbers since some of the stuff that they passed. But everything that I’ve done in my in my career suggests that what they’ve accomplished should only strengthen their political position.

David Fair: Andrew, I’d like to thank you for the time and the insights today. I wish we had more time to talk, but, perhaps, we’ll do that again before we get to Election Day.

Andrew Baumann: I’d be happy to do it. Thank you for having me.

David Fair: That is Andrew Baumann. He is partner at Global Strategy Group, the largest progressive polling firm in the country. Lisa Wozniak is executive director of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters and my partner for First Friday Focus on the Environment. And here’s to another year together on First Fridays!

Lisa Wozniak: I look forward to it very much, David.

David Fair: I’m David Fair, and this is your community NPR station, 89 one WEMU FM Ypsilanti.

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