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
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
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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