Biden Earth Day Event Will Try to Reach Young Voters, a Crucial Bloc

Biden Earth Day Event Will Try to Reach Young Voters, a Crucial Bloc

President Biden will travel to a national park in Virginia on Monday, Earth Day, to spotlight his clean energy investments, with an eye on bolstering support among young voters disillusioned with their choices for the 2024 election.

Against the backdrop of the park, Prince William Forest, Mr. Biden will announce $7 billion in grants to fund solar power for hundreds of thousands of homes in primarily disadvantaged communities, according to the White House. He will be joined by future members of the American Climate Corps, a new work force for young people hoping to combat climate change.

Mr. Biden’s top officials will also fan out across the country to promote his environmental policy.

Mr. Biden hopes Monday’s event can build enthusiasm among young people, a crucial constituency for his re-election bid that includes some who have expressed disappointment with the White House on economic and foreign policy matters but that also cares deeply about environmental policy.

Mr. Biden leads his Republican opponent, former President Donald J. Trump, among young voters, and many approve of his record on the environment when contrasted with Mr. Trump’s. Mr. Biden’s lead, however, is smaller than it was at this point during the 2020 election cycle, according to a Harvard Youth Poll released last week.

Young voters have emerged as a particular weakness in Mr. Biden’s approval ratings, with more than 85 percent viewing the economy as poor or fair, according to a survey by The New York Times and Siena College released last week.

Another poll, from October, found that just 31 percent of voters younger than 30 were “satisfied” with Mr. Biden’s record on climate change.

Mr. Biden on Monday will try to point to the investments in his signature climate bill, the Inflation Reduction Act, as not just a means to combat climate change but also as a job creator, according to the White House. He also hopes those efforts can overcome some young voters’ frustration over other issues, including the rising civilian death toll in Gaza from Israel’s assault after the Hamas-led terrorist attacks on Oct. 7.

“The bigger fear is not necessarily young voters turning out en masse for Trump. It’s them staying home,” said Danielle Deiseroth, the executive director of Data for Progress, a left-leaning research firm. “That’s where the climate stuff does come into play to sort of energize and also to scare young people to coming out to vote.”

Mr. Biden has faced a messaging problem when it comes to his most consequential climate policy to date. The legislation contained hundreds of billions of dollars in tax credits to help companies switch to low-carbon electricity sources like wind, solar and nuclear power. It also included billions in incentives for people to buy electric vehicles and electric heat pumps for their homes.

The law, signed in 2022, is already having ripple effects: Across the country, businesses have announced plans for more than 150 factories that would build electric vehicles, batteries, solar panels and wind turbines. Sales of electric cars and installations of large-scale solar power plants both hit record highs last year.

Yet polls suggest that few Americans seem to know about the law.

Roughly 58 percent of voters had heard “little” or “nothing at all” about the law, according to a recent survey by the Yale University Program on Climate Change Communication. That survey did find that 71 percent of voters supported the bill after reading a brief description of its contents.

One potential problem is that many of the climate law’s outcomes are not yet fully visible. While companies have announced more than $100 billion in new manufacturing investments in states like Arizona, Georgia and Michigan, many of those factories are not yet up and running.

Some environmentalists have sought to publicize the law’s effects. Climate Power, a liberal advocacy group, plans to spend $80 million on election-year advertising to contrast Mr. Biden’s legislative accomplishments with the actions of Mr. Trump, who has mocked climate science and has vowed to roll back programs to promote clean energy.

Other climate activists have sharply criticized Mr. Biden for not doing enough to curtail fossil fuel drilling in the United States. U.S. oil and gas production soared to record highs last year. Many activists have focused anger on Mr. Biden’s approval of Willow, an $8 billion oil drilling project on pristine federal land in Alaska, and on federal approval of a natural gas pipeline from West Virginia to Virginia that has been opposed by environmentalists.

“President Biden has taken historic action on climate change and done more than any president in history to combat the climate crisis, but that bar is unfortunately quite low,” said Stevie O’Hanlon, the communications director for the Sunrise Movement, a group of young climate activists. “If Joe Biden wants to be seen as a climate president by young voters, he needs to decisively take action to end the fossil fuel era.”

In recent months, Mr. Biden has taken a series of steps to try to slow down domestic fossil fuel production. In January, the administration said it would pause the approval of new terminals that export liquefied natural gas in order to study the issue further. This month, the Interior Department said it would ban oil drilling across nearly 13 million acres in Alaska’s North Slope.

But the Sunrise Movement and other campaigners have asked the administration to go even further and formally declare a national climate emergency, a move that could potentially unlock federal powers to reinstate a ban on oil exports or halt offshore drilling. To date, Mr. Biden has declined to do so, though he has said that he already has, “practically speaking.”

Publicly, Biden administration officials have praised younger climate activists, while trying to make the case that they are on the same side.

“If the question is why do young people want more, we just need to look at the science,” Ali Zaidi, Mr. Biden’s senior climate adviser, said in December when asked about criticism from young climate activists. “There’s a relentlessness embedded in the shot clock for climate action.”

“And in delivering on an unprecedented climate agenda,” Mr. Zaidi added, “I think that’s the way the president continues to harness that energy from young people.”

Lisa Friedman contributed reporting.

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