A Peace Corps for Climate Change Is Among the Most Popular Green New Deal Policies

Illustration for article titled A Peace Corps for Climate Change Is Among the Most Popular Green New Deal Policies
Photo: Getty

Americans want to get to work saving the planet from catastrophic climate change. Presidential candidate Jay Inslee’s idea of forming a Climate Conservation Corps—akin to the Peace Corps and Americorps—is among the most popular climate policies associated with the Green New Deal.


Polling results from Data for Progress first shared with Earther show that large swaths of Democratic and independent voters favor starting Inslee’s program, which he first described in a blog post last month. But the polling also shows these groups support a number of other major climate policies that would put Americans to work addressing climate change, leverage the buying power of the federal government, and help communities of color. The findings show that progressive, service-oriented ideas to address climate change appeal to voters beyond the left.

“Lately, I’ve been listening to Lil Nas X’s ‘Old Town Road,’ and it struck me that the Green New Deal is like the ‘Old Town Road’ of American politics,” Julian Brave NoiseCat, Data for Progress’ director of Green New Deal strategy, told Earther in the most summer of 2019 quote ever uttered. “It’s popular, it’s a cross issue phenomenon and at this point, Democrats who don’t ride with us are going to be old hat.”

Previous Green New Deal polling has by and large focused on how popular the general idea of a sweeping climate policy built on progressive principles and sound science would be. While the twin resolutions introduced by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey outline the goals of a Green New Deal, the legislation doesn’t include calls for specific policies. But a growing crop of proposals, including ones put forward by think tanks like Data for Progress and presidential candidates, are starting to connect the dots for what implementing a Green New Deal could involve. The new polling delves into eight of those of those policies, and is based on polling of 2,107 registered voters by YouGov Blue over two periods in early April and early May.

Illustration for article titled A Peace Corps for Climate Change Is Among the Most Popular Green New Deal Policies
Graphic: Data for Progress

The eight policies polled include the aforementioned conservation corps—an idea put forward by presidential candidate Jay Inslee. The policy would create three programs designed to put Americans to building base of the clean energy economy. They include a Peace Corps-like program to foster clean energy and adaptation programs abroad, an Americorps-like program to do the same at home in disadvantaged communities, and a green job training program.

The new poll results also include having the federal government “buy clean”—something fellow candidate Amy Klobuchar has called for—as well as ending fossil fuel subsidies, phasing out coal, and implementing a climate test for all new infrastructure among others. All the policies received highly favorable marks from Democrats with the highest being Inslee’s climate corps and investing in clean energy infrastructure in communities of color. Both had a favorability rating of 82 percent.


All the policies also struck a chord with independent voters, with the climate corps again topping the list (net 33 percent favorability rating) followed by ending fossil fuel subsidies. The only voters who weren’t fans of the policies were Republicans and Fox News viewers in particular. All ideas were rated as unfavorable, though Inslee’s conservation corps was just 5 percent below water making it the closest to getting Republican support. Previous polls have shown similar results, reinforcing that Fox News is a cancer on our political discourse. But the results also show that Green New Deal policies have opened up a new way of talking about climate change in a way that resonates with many voters.

“We need to find a new solution to climate change, and this Green New Deal framework of talking about jobs, asking about justice can energize the base among Democratic voters and independents,” Sean McElwee, Data for Progress’ co-founder, told Earther.


The results also indicate that Democrats and independents at least aren’t wedded to the current way our government operates at the federal lever. At the end of the day, governments are faced with a series of choices for how to use the public’s money to do the most good. For decades, the paradigm has been using those vast resources to help fund the fossil fuel industry.

“Depending on how you count it, we give about $100 billion to the fossil fuel industry, which is going to corporations and polluting communities and contributing to climate change every year,” NoiseCat said. “We have muscular government, it’s just muscular in the wrong direction.”


The Green New Deal would use those funds and other tools of government—renewable standards, purchasing power, a clean jobs program, putting money into renewables as opposed to fossil fuels—in a new, muscular way to help stop climate change and create jobs. In the case of the Climate Conservation Corps, the programs could also help spur development in disadvantaged communities at home and abroad not only slowing climate change but building a more just world. It turns out many Americans support reimagining government (and borrowing policies that are already being implemented at the state and city levels) in this manner.

Politicians are getting the message as well. Weeks after his advisor floated a “middle ground” climate plan, Joe Biden released a plan that called the Green New Deal “a crucial framework for meeting the climate challenges we face.” There are, of course, reasons to be skeptical of how committed Biden is to the Green New Deal, but the fact that he’s tying himself to it shows where things are headed. Inslee meanwhile has continued to forge ahead with ambitious and progressive climate policies that show how every facet of governance will have to shift.


Data for Progress’ polling captures some of the more unique ideas out there, but McElwee said there’s still more room for policy innovation when it comes to addressing climate change.

“I don’t think I can remember a time when we’ve had so much energy and ingenuity to developing new policy proposals,” he said. “I think there has been a dam that’s burst and we’re seeing more and more coming out.”


And it appears Fox News viewers aside, most Americans seem ready to embrace them.

Managing editor at Earther, writing about climate change, environmental justice, and, occasionally, my cat.



Why do we even need it? Study after study has shown green industries are profitable and the only thing preventing their rise are entrenched, obsolete rich people.