Time: “How big a factor was cap-and-trade on election night? In reality, not all that much.”

Election-night poll in 83 battleground districts found, “Energy Vote Did Not Contribute to Democratic Defeat.”

According to the center-right Politico, “House Democrats who voted for the 2009 bill to cap greenhouse gas emissions – dubbed cap-and-tax by GOP opponents – had a terrible night.”  That’s from a piece headlined, “Democrats’ day of reckoning comes for climate vote.”  You can tell all you need to know about the Politico’s political leanings from its repetition of the polluter-tested-phrase ‘cap-and-tax’ to apply to a centrist, Republican-designed emissions reduction strategy.

The fact is, House Democrats in general had a terrible night.  Indeed, a post-election analysis (below) finds that nearly two thirds of the house Democrats who voted ‘no’ on the House climate and clean energy jobs bill, lost their seats. Time magazine concludes:

But how big a factor was cap-and-trade on election night? In reality, not all that much. It’s worth noting that no Republican who voted in favor of cap-and-trade lost their reelection battles last night….  Even in the midst of a Republican tsunami, a few Democrats who supported a carbon cap still managed close victories, including Brad Miller of North Carolina and John Yarmuth of Kentucky””two conservative leaning states. “I’m not saying cap-and-trade wasn’t an issue,” says Cathy Duvall, the political director for the Sierra Club. “But there were people who voted for it who lost and people who voted against it who lost, in tough districts and in more traditional districts.”

UPDATE:  An election-night poll by Greenberg found, “Energy Vote Did Not Contribute to Democratic Defeat.”  Key findings:

  • Members’ support for ACES did not contribute to their defeat. When voters who chose the Republican candidate were asked in an open ended question to name their biggest concern about the Democrat, only 1 percent cited something related to energy or cap and trade. And when offered a list of six arguments Republicans made against Democrats, only 7 percent of voters selected the so-called “cap and trade energy tax.”
  • Despite a strongly Republican leaning electorate, battleground voters trusted the Democrat more than the Republican when it comes to energy. The election night survey shows a battleground electorate that leans Republican by 10 percentage points on partisanship, yet they favored the Democrat on energy by 6 points.
  • A majority supports comprehensive energy reform. When presented with a comprehensive energy plan, battleground voters back the plan by 16 percent.
  • Majority support for EPA regulation of carbon. By a considerable 22 percent margin, battleground voters believe the Environmental Protection Agency should regulate emissions of greenhouse gases.
  • Voters want to hold corporations accountable for their pollution. By a huge 41 percent margin, voters believe “we need to hold corporations accountable for their pollution,” rejecting the argument that “we should not impose new regulations that will hurt businesses.”

This, of course, matches all the pre-election polling (see Yet another major poll finds strong public support for global warming action, “even if it means an increase in the cost of energy”).

It’s worth noting that even in the midst of a Republican tsunami, 80% of the Democrats who supported a carbon cap kept their seats.  Perhaps more noteworthy is how many Democrats who opposed a carbon lost their seats, according to an analysis of election results and 2009 ACES votes conducted by The Glover Park Group, a Washington, DC, public affairs consultancy”:
As The Glover Park Group also notes:

ACES was actually a winner for most of its Republican supporters: If the “cap and tax bloodbath” story were true, you’d expect the GOP “traitors” who voted for ACES to get booted, right?  Wrong: 7 of the 8 Republicans who voted FOR the climate bill were either re-elected, elevated to the Senate or made Secretary of the Army: Mary Bono Mack (CA-45): Re-Elected; Mike Castle (DE-AL): Ran for Senate, Lost Republican Primary; Mark Kirk (IL-10): Elected Senator from Illinois; Leonard Lance (NJ-7): Re-Elected; Frank LoBiondo (NJ-2): Re-Elected; John McHugh (NY-23): Now serves as U.S. Secretary of the Army; Dave Reichert (WA-8): Re-Elected; Chris Smith (NJ-4): Re-Elected.  If you leave McHugh aside, that’s a 75% win rate for GOP “yes” votes on climate.

Time‘s Bryan Walsh makes the larger point:

Indeed, aside from a few districts where climate change and energy was high on the agenda””like Rick Boucher’s coal-mining land””Americans voters weren’t really focused on environmental issues. This was a wave election, an expression of volcanic anger on the part of the public, and what House and Senate Democrats did or didn’t do on climate and energy likely made very little difference to the overall tide.

As I noted last night, California is the only place in the country where climate and clean energy activists aggressively pushed their message across the board in the face of strong, well-funded opposition by Big Oil.  Prop 23 lost by more than 20 points.  Whitman and Fiorina were crushed running on an explicit dirty-energy agenda and/or running against candidates with an unabashed clean energy agenda.

Cap-and-trade died in July.  It was obvious then it wasn’t coming back anytime soon.  I’ll post soon on just when the United States might conceivably rejoin the growing list of nations prepared to take serious climate action.

See also Brad Johnson’s, “Without Evidence, Politico Spins Climate Vote As Electoral Lose.”

16 Responses to Time: “How big a factor was cap-and-trade on election night? In reality, not all that much.”

  1. _Flin_ says:

    Sustainability wins elections. Who would have thought. Too bad that climate cowardice wins funding.

  2. spiritkas says:


    Turnout and supression are always issues in these elections. In around 100% of cases a different candidate could win based on the number of people who didn’t vote. Often times only a plurality can be had based on total number of eligible voters. If only 45% of people show up and a candidate takes home 25% of the vote, they win. Even in 2008 with Obama, enough people didn’t vote that if they all had voted or were counted as voting for ‘no one’ we wouldn’t have a president or could have a different one. It is hard for me to call these elections legitimate in that sense. It is possible and frequently occurs where winning comesfrom only slightly better than 1 in 5 eligible voters going out and voting for a candidate.

    If we had 95-100% turnout in this election, my guess is the democrats would have picked up 100+ seats. But we can’t ever know something like that.

    I think mandatory balloting or election reform or campaign finance reform or national holidays for voting will continue to elude the US for many years to come.



  3. Prokaryotes says:

    Reid Assails Polls That Predicted His Loss

    Senator Harry Reid of Nevada has long made a point of saying he doesn’t like polls. Throughout these past two years – as Mr. Reid saw poll after poll suggesting he was in trouble – he told whoever would listen that the polls were wrong, that he was going to win, and that he was not concerned. Outside his circle, it seems fair to say that not many people believed him.

    So it was that in victory on Wednesday, Mr. Reid has some harsh words for pollsters who had predicted he would lose to his Republican rival, Sharron Angle, and for the way the news media seized on every poll.

  4. Prokaryotes says:

    California Climate Law Survives Challenge at Polls

  5. Prokaryotes says:

    Bennet wins Senate race


    Ken Buck embraces Inhofe: “Global warming is the greatest hoax”

  6. Jeff Huggins says:

    Some Stuff

    The more I listen (on the radio, etc.) to people trying to figure out “what the voters said”, the more I realize that that quest, if it moves beyond a few simple things that are obvious anyhow — e.g., “we’d like jobs” — is usually fruitless and just as often misleading as it is informative. Apart from the obvious complexities of interpreting mush, there is the fact that, because of the media mess and misleading messages, many people probably voted for things they did not actually understand. So, what should the take-away be? Who knows — except for the point, often made here, that the messaging needs to get MUCH better and the media should get MUCH better.

    So, regarding whether the public punished those who voted for cap-and-trade (probably not), it should not make much difference to how we proceed here. Indeed, as long as we can keep motivated by the necessity of the task, it’s perhaps best not to assume that the public “gets it” and that the public didn’t punish cap-and-traders. The task, either way, is to come up with messaging, communications, tactics, and so forth to explain anew — and clarify — the best ways to address climate change in a way that is compellingly attractive and clear. Let’s assume that most of the public misunderstands the idea and dislikes it. That way, we won’t underestimate the task ahead, and we’ll work on ways to improve the policy itself, explain it clearly, explain why it is genuinely appealing, and so forth.

    Also, there is the risk that even our discussions and ways of looking at things here feed into, and affirm, the political paradigm of merely doing what will get one re-elected. Sometimes people “don’t like” and “punish” what is actually GOOD and NECESSARY for them. Politicians should vote for responsible climate and energy policies because it’s the right thing to do, it will address climate change and preserve the climate for future generations, it will move us from our dependence on overseas energy sources, it will create jobs and improve the economy, and it will move the U.S. into the future — NOT because a misinformed and distracted public did or didn’t punish politicians for votes of one sort or another in the past.

    Of course, the MEDIA are still a MESS; and we had better put a great deal of effort into that part of the problem (along with others) or else we won’t “get to where we need to be”.

    I do appreciate the analysis, but I just want to make sure we don’t minimize the messaging and communications task going forward. We shouldn’t assume anything.



  7. Neal Heidler says:

    My rep in IN 9th, Baron Hill, was a Blue Dog who voted for ACES. He got creamed (52% to 42% in a 3 way race) by a tea party Republican, Todd Young.

    The “terrible night” for reps who voted against ACES is certainly correlated with this vote, but I think it’s more of an indication of how fortunate many Blue Dogs were to have EVER been elected in “red” or reddish-purple districts.

  8. Jeff Huggins says:

    Also … PLEASE NOTE

    Whenever a topic involves what right-leaning “free market” folks argue — i.e., that entirely “free” markets will always work things out, and that government has no business in matters of business — please remember the Milton Friedman quote I’ve posted (in several threads), with which Friedman states that it’s necessary and (often) justified for government to be involved in cases where “neighborhood effects” are involved. “Free markets” typically can’t handle those situations themselves. As time progresses, if we want to make progress, we’ll have to “rub that quote in the faces of” those folks who think that markets are godlike and can handle all matters. Indeed, that quote should be put on t-shirts and bumper stickers, written in sand on the beaches, put to rhythms and rhymes, tattooed in the lower centers of bare backs, and even written on cups at Starbucks. No joking (well, figuratively speaking anyhow). Faced with the scientific assessments, and that quote from Milton Friedman, right-leaning “free market” folks would either have to boldly deny the science OR disagree with Milt himself in order to avoid the necessary and inevitable conclusion. That quote can play a key role in our efforts to win at the “whop-a-mole” game that the “other side” has us playing and is beating us at, so far.



  9. Wally says:

    While driving home this afternoon, I heard a segment of “The World” on NPR in which the program’s environmental analyst Peter Thompson believes the new republican congress will probably drag climate scientists into hearings in order to pull funding on federal climate research – (like the good old days of the McCarthy era or HUAC).

    Link is below – you have to scroll down to the bottom left corner of the page – the segment is located inside the “entire program” between -21:24 and -17:28

  10. Dana says:

    This isn’t a surprise – almost all voters put the economy as their #1 concern and basis for voting. The election results had virtually nothing to do with cap and trade, which failed anyway.

  11. Wonhyo says:

    The Dems left so many Right Wing Falsehoods unchallenged that cap-and-trade didn’t need to be a big issue for the Republicans. The question is, how many seats did the Dems *lose* because they failed to stand up for cap-and-trade and the jobs that would have come with it?

  12. Jim Groom says:

    #9 Wally,

    says he heard on the radio that the GOP might bring climate scientist into chambers, under oath, to discuss their findings. They hope to embarrass them or find out about wrong doing and faulty science. Perhaps we should look at this as a good thing, instead of a monumental waste of time. I can see Prof Mann and others making fools out of these elected gentlemen on live TV. After they have been exposed (the politicans that is) for the ill informed schills of the fossil fuel industry they will be forced to actually deal with the issue. We can always hope…can’t we?

  13. Tom says:

    Too bad the spineless President doesn’t back climate change:

  14. Mike says:

    If C&T had passed and been signed into law it probably would have been a bigger campaign issue. That’s why our fearful Senators ran for the hills instead of doing what is right for our country and planet.

  15. Mike says:

    @#12: “I can see Prof Mann and others making fools out of these elected gentlemen on live TV.”

    Politicians are very comfortable in front of the camera. Mann and Hansen have some experience now, but the GOP House may subpoena lesser known researchers who they think they can bully. They will also have known deniers testify. Faux News will only show clips that make the science look suspect.

    Subpoenaed scientists will need to hire lawyers and probably do some mock rehearsals. Will universities pay for this? Would the ACLU be able to provide legal assistance? Hearings are not debates; they ask the questions you have to answer. Media savvy researchers should be on hand to hold press conferences after each hearing. We must not let the GOP frame the issues. The Senate can also hold hearings for balance, but this means Democrats showing leadership. You know how that can go.

    I am also concerned that if hearings turn ugly they will discourage students from going into this field. Faculty may wish to hold discussions with their students on what is happening. This would be a good chance for faculty from the sciences to work with historians and others on campus teach-ins. I could see lectures called “When Science meets McCarthyism.”

    And then of course there is the funding. The GOP will attack science funding in general. It has to be said over and over that the only way to find out what the climate is doing is to study it. Even if the warming was natural, it still makes sense to understand what changes are likely to happen. Only a science denier would not want the people to know.

    Finally, out right deniers need to be stigmatized as being as nutty as 911-trusters and the birthers.

  16. Raul M. says:

    It must be strange for a Prof. to not get a chance to review the
    inquisitors’ knowledge of the questions asked. Such could lead to
    the Prof. giving a grade to the inquisitors understanding of the
    subject. I used to get an incomplete grade when I couldn’t show
    progress with a course of study. Hmm congress gets free course
    and doesn’t have to get a grade. Itunes lets me get free study and
    no grade. Course it doesn’t count for professional credentials.
    Does a congress person get to claim credentials from free course
    and no review of the study. Could they make decisions involving
    the whole country without any educational credentials. That is a
    cushey position if so.