If More Millennials Vote Today, They Could Make A Real Difference On Climate Issues

The only problem is that they’re less likely to vote than older people who don’t care as much.

If More Millennials Vote Today, They Could Make A Real Difference On Climate Issues
[Photo: Flickr user Anna Vignet]

If you’re under 35, you’re much more likely to care about renewable energy and cutting carbon pollution than someone over 65. But you’re also less likely to vote in the midterm elections today.


In a new poll on energy issues from the University of Texas at Austin, the generation gap looms large. The majority of millennials (56%) are willing to pay higher prices to protect the environment, compared to 20% of seniors. Two-thirds of millennials say they’re interested in voting for candidates that want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, compared to only half of older Americans.

The poll also looked at differences between voters based on income, region, gender, and party lines. Unsurprisingly, there are also huge differences between Democrats and Republicans. 83% of Democrats say climate change is occurring; less than half of Republicans believe the science. But the researchers didn’t expect the size of the gap between age groups.

Flickr user Vox Efx

“The dramatic differences in attitudes on energy by age group surprised me,” says Sheril Kirshenbaum, director of the UT Energy Poll. “Until this wave of the poll, we’ve mainly focused on political differences which are rather predictable. I knew older and younger voters would have different priorities, but didn’t expect just how distinct they would be.”

The researchers poll Americans on energy issues every six months as part of a long-term study tracking how attitudes are changing. “This time we included more questions about how energy issues influence the way people vote given the midterms are coming up,” says Kirshenbaum. “Even though we don’t often hear about energy as a voting issue, 82% of Americans say it influences the candidates they choose.”

There’s enough of a difference between generations that millennials could make a difference on climate issues–like cutting coal use, creating a carbon tax, or blocking the Keystone XL pipeline–if they actually voted. But only 68% say they plan to vote today, compared to 87% of people over 55.

“Younger Americans are more interested in issues like curbing carbon emissions and taking action to address climate change, so they may hint at where the U.S. is headed,” Kirshenbaum says. “However, the poll results also indicate they are far less likely to vote on election day. So a good takeaway is that–no matter what generation you are part of–vote.”

About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.