Sierra Club: The Planet--1996
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The Planet
Making the Environment an Election Issue

While some Americans are primarily concerned about clean air and water, others about wildlife, and still others about public lands and open space, what concerns all of us is how these issues affect our families and the future. Voters are particularly concerned about the impact pollution has on our health and on the health of our children. They believe strongly that we should leave our children a better place in which to live, and that we should protect our natural heritage for future generations. Almost no one would deny that every American deserves a safe and healthy environment, which is why poll after poll reinforces voters' beliefs that strong laws should be passed and enforced to safeguard our air, water, wildlife and public lands.

When you discuss environmental concerns with the press, in factsheets or in public meetings, talk about them in terms that voters can relate to: health, safety, natural heritage, responsibility, common sense and the legacy we leave behind.

How to Talk About the Environment

Since 1995, Stan Greenberg, Celinda Lake and other pollsters have conducted research on the attitudes swing voters hold about the environment. From this research, it has become clear that messages to the public about environmental protection should include the following elements:

Acknowledge environmental progress.

Voters know that our air and water are significantly cleaner than they were in 1970. Environmentalists and pro- environment candidates must acknowledge this progress to retain their credibility, even as we advocate for stronger environmental laws and more effective enforcement of those laws.

Making existing problems relevant to voters.

It is essential to describe environmental problems to voters in straightforward language and without jargon. It helps to describe the impact of specific environmental problems in human terms. Describe attacks on environmental protection as a threat to people.

Link opponents' anti-environmental votes to campaign contributions.

Environmental protection is a fundamental value of our society. Voters simply do not believe that politicians would risk their careers by voting to weaken environmental law. To make these charges credible, voters need to see the motive behind them. Linking anti-environmental votes to campaign contributions from special interests provides a motive voters may not respect but one they can understand.

- from Winning with the Environment: The Sierra Club Guide for Pro-Environment Candidates and Activists.

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