An overwhelming majority of Illinoisans say lawmakers should make dealing with climate change a priority. That’s according to the latest results from an NPR Illinois — University of Illinois Springfield survey.
That sense of urgency is shared across demographic groups — by race, age, and level of education. But there are subtleties within the numbers.
The survey asked 1,000 people from Chicago to downstate whether policymakers should make dealing with climate change a priority, and where that priority should sit among others. That question split people roughly evenly — 44 percent said policymakers should make climate change issues a top priority, and 41 percent said they should have "some" priority. 15 percent overall said climate change should have no priority.
Howard Learner directs the Environmental Law and Policy Center. He says the differences are between the two are nuanced, and instead communicate a wider message:
“The public is overwhelmingly saying ‘we want to see our public officials to move forward with solutions and make a difference,'" he said.
Researchers say those numbers are in line with national polls on the question.
Andrea McGimsey is with the advocacy group Environment America. She explained while misinformation about climate change continues to make its way to the public, people across the country view the issue with some urgency.
"The voice of the scientists is really starting to come through loud and clear," she said. "It’s because we used to think that this issue was going to happen in the future, to our children and to our grandchildren, but we’re seeing the impacts today.”'
Jack Darin of the Illinois chapter of the Sierra Club said he's encouraged by the priority Illinois voters appear to give climate change issues in the public sphere, even if there are those who don't.
"Unfortunately...we have people who are cynical about expecting change on issues like climate change, but ultimately the facts don't lie," he said. "What people experience out there in Illinois with our changing weather, that tells them the truth and underscores the urgency of acting."
The largest group of dissenters were Illinois Republicans and Republican-leaning independents— 28 percent said climate change should be given “no priority” by policymakers. But they were a minority in their own party — 71 percent of Republicans favor at least some priority for the issue.
The 2019 Illinois Issues Survey used an online panel of 1,012 Illinois registered voters and ran from Sept. 13-23, 2019. It was designed and analyzed by the Institute for Legal, Legislative, and Policy Studies; the Survey Research Office; and NPR Illinois; all units of the UIS Center for State Policy and Leadership.