Will Environmental Issues Matter in the 2012 Election?

Environmental issues are becoming a major part of the rhetorical fight leading up to the 2012 elections.

Republicans are trying to put Democrats on the defensive by calling environmental regulations “job killers”; Democrats are working to label Republicans as the “Grand Oil Party.” Both parties are using issues like climate change, offshore drilling, renewable energy and emissions regulations as important pieces of their early campaigning.

A recent piece from the Economist called “Environmentalism under fire” describes how political leaders are approaching the issues:

That is in part, presumably, because at the mid-terms last year the Republicans succeeded in portraying the Democrats’ plans to restrict emissions via a cap-and-trade scheme as an all-out assault on the economy, to great effect. John Shimkus, another Republican congressman, says Republicans will benefit again if environmental regulation remains a fraught issue next year. But Democrats like Mr. Waxman argue that the Republicans are reading too much into their victory last year. Voters may put their immediate economic concerns ahead of more amorphous worries about global warming in the wake of the recession, he says, but they are still not willing to tolerate a broader assault on regulations that protect public health.

In short, both the Democrats and the Republicans think they have found a winning theme in the other party’s environmental policies. And they may both, in fact, be right. Most polling suggests that the environment is not a critical issue in the eyes of many voters. But talking about it is a great way to fire up activists and donors on both sides.

So what do you think? Will voters respond to these issues? And if so, which strategy will be more effective?

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