Voters Want Renewable Energy

April 14, 2021

Executive Summary:

  • Voters overwhelmingly support a more rapid transition to renewable energy
  • Racial justice has become a major voting issue across communities
  • Large partisan divide over the number of women in office

Climate change is on voters’ minds in North Carolina. In the latest Carolina Forward poll, voters made their wishes loud and clear, agreeing by a margin of over 40 points (66% in agreement to only 25% opposed) that state leaders should pressure Duke Energy to shift more of its production to renewable energy:

Duke Energy has been very reluctant to embrace renewable energy. Despite its large investment in marketing to the contrary, sometimes referred to as “greenwashing,” Duke Energy still relies overwhelmingly on fossil fuels. According to the company’s 2020 annual report, only 2% of its generated capacity came from renewable sources, compared with 61% from fossil fuels (coal and oil), plus 37% from nuclear. In its published 15-year plan for power generation, the company plans to raise its renewables share only to 14% - and not until the year 2035. It is also planning a large increase in natural gas power generation in the same period, to 31% of total capacity.

Duke Energy is also the single largest direct corporate political contributor in North Carolina. The company contributed over $450,000 to state-level candidates in the 2020 elections cycle, of which three-quarters went to Republicans. Along with the Chamber of Commerce, Duke Energy was also widely rumored to have funneled roughly $5 million into dark-money PACs to protect the Republican majority in the state legislature. This helps explain their extraordinary - and largely inappropriate - access to the legislation drafting process, driven entirely by the Republican majority.

The Calls for Racial Justice Grow Louder

By a wide margin, North Carolinians say that racial justice for people of color is an important voting issue. This priority holds across almost all respondent categories in this poll:

Only among Republican voters did a plurality of respondents disagree. Among self-described Trump voters, this sentiment only grew. Trump voters responded 33% agree/55% disagree overall. Nor was this a mostly-rural phenomenon, as racial attitudes are often stereotyped. A clear majority of voters in all areas - urban, suburban and rural - all solidly agreed that racial justice for people of color was an important voting issue.

This suggests that 2020’s protests and ongoing debates over racial inequities in wealth and disproportionately harsh treatment by law enforcement and the criminal justice system still resonate with many in our state. State leaders simply must do more to demonstrate that they are serious about bridging the long-standing and painful racial divides that still permeate nearly every facet of life in our state.

Enough Women in Office?

A similar dynamic shows up in a question about women in public office. We asked voters if there are too few women in public office, and most respondents - though not all - agreed there are:

Besides the gender gap on this question, there was an even more noticeable partisan one. Democrats overwhelmingly report that there are too few women in office, while a plurality of Republicans disagree. What makes this finding particularly striking is the two parties’ gender representation already:

  • Out of 93 Republicans in the state legislature (House and Senate), only 14 (15%) are women
  • Out of 77 Democrats in the state legislature, only 29 (38%) are women
  • Out of 261 Republicans in the U.S. Congress (both chambers), 38 (15%) are women
  • Out of 270 Democrats in the U.S. Congress (both chambers), 106 (39%) are women

While both parties have a large gender gap in their representation, only one party’s base seems to register it as an issue.

Once again, we see that voters’ wishes are mostly falling on deaf ears in the state legislature, which voters widely see as corrupt and unrepresentative. The longer North Carolina’s legislature is constituted of districts drawn for political advantage over representation, these gaps will only continue to grow.

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