Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Environmentalists Tend To Have Bad Voting Records — And Lie About It

August 23, 2017
Bob Oakes, Yasmin Amer


Voters who say the environment is one of their top two most important issues tend to have pretty abysmal voting records.

Nathaniel Stinnett founded the Environmental Voter Project in Boston, which looks at voters’ habits and patterns. He joined WBUR to discuss his findings.

Bob Oakes: What did you find out about voters who self-identify as environmentalists?

Nathaniel Stinnett: In the 2016 presidential election, about 68 or 69 percent of registered voters turned out to vote. The problem is only 50 percent of environmentalists turned out to vote.

In the 2014 midterms, only 21 percent of environmentalists voted. We’ve got a big turnout problem.

Do you know why?

The honest answer is not only do we not know why, we will never know why.

Any behavioral scientist can tell you it’s really hard to set up an experiment to figure out why someone doesn’t take an action, like voting.

The best you can do is ask them, and what do you think happens when you ask environmentalists why they don’t vote? They lie. They lie their pants off.

We did a survey last year in the Boston area where we asked hundreds of environmentalists who had never voted before why they don’t vote, and the overwhelming majority of them said, "Oh no, I always vote.”

Who you vote for is secret, but whether you vote or not is public information. ... And so it's really hard to measure why people aren't voting, because even people who don’t vote still buy into the societal norm that voting is a good thing.


We think the best way to have an impact in 2018 is to start having an impact in 2017. And so if we get an environmentalist to vote in a municipal election in 2017, it only takes a month or two for the record of that vote to show up on their public voter file, and then every politician who’s running for governor or Congress or Senate in 2018 sees the record of that vote and then they start polling those people, they start prioritizing the issues they care about, and they start responding to them.


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