During Monday’s presidential debate, Hillary Clinton mentioned that Donald Trump thought climate change was a hoax orchestrated by the Chinese, and he immediately denied it.
But the internet was quick to fact check, reviving one of Mr. Trump’s own tweets from 2012. It became the most retweeted tweet of the night.
Is the issue of climate change one that Mrs. Clinton could use to appeal to the young voters?
Clinton was quick to try to capitalize on the issue. At a campaign event Wednesday at the University of New Hampshire, she said she "never thought when I gave my acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention that I would have to put in the following sentence: I believe in science. Climate change is real, it is serious and we have to be united and committed in addressing it.”
Several polls have shown that climate change is one of the top issues for likely Millennial voters. But a Pew Research report shows that Millennials (people between the ages of 18-35) have historically low voter turnout, with 50 percent of fewer of eligible voters turning up to the polls in the last three presidential elections. This year the Millennial vote will be particularly important as they just recently surpassed Baby Boomers as the largest US cohort.
Combine these statistics together with the debate and you have Clinton's new millennial strategy.
Clinton’s climate policy did not set her apart next to former presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) of Vermont, who in addition to pushing for increased use of renewable energy and an end to tax breaks for oil companies wanted to tax carbon emissions and ban fracking. But against Trump, she offers a clear contrast.
"We're likely going to continue to see her drive this issue, particularly to younger voters – and voters who may be considering a third-party candidate, whether it's Johnson or [the Green Party's Jill] Stein," Clay Schroers, the League of Conservation Voters' national campaigns director, told CNN. "I think that making it clear that she has plans to tackle this and to continue the incredible progress the Obama administration has made is really a key part of demonstrating to those voters that she's tackling the issues that matter to them.”
Already, the visibility of climate change in this election is unprecedented and marks a shift from the previous two presidential elections. Despite being of interest to liberal voters, Democratic candidates have historically avoided the topic because any proposal that may lead to increased energy prices was too politically risky.
During this election, climate change has been a conversation that has involved both the right and left, and while more discussion of climate change can only serve to help Democrats, it has so far failed to unite the party in support of Clinton.
A June poll by the Kennedy School at Harvard University showed that 54 percent of the most likely young voters (ages 18 to 29) supported Sanders compared to 37 percent in favor of Clinton. Although Clinton’s lead among other demographics won her the party’s nomination and Sanders eventually endorsed her, not all his supporters have done the same.
With many less than enthusiastic voters, delivering the “get out and vote” message has been a key campaign strategy. In recent weeks Sanders has been campaigning in swing states, working to convince Millennials that Clinton cares about the issues they do, including climate change, in the hopes that they remember that on Nov. 8.
“We are on the ground everyday talking to Millennials and I think it is important to know that Millennials do care and they do understand the importance of this election,” Suzanne Henkels, communications director for NextGen Climate, tells The Christian Science Monitor. “It is really the issues that are motivating them to vote rather than any certain candidate. That is why it is so important to talk about the issues because that is what is going to make them turn out on election day, knowing that there is a candidate fighting for all the same issues they care about."