Last month’s Ford-Kavanaugh hearing is yet another example of how partisan this country has become in recent years.
Considering this political climate where Republicans and Democrats are sharply divided — seemingly on all key issues — is it possible for Americans to come together on any single issue?
It doesn’t seem likely, but researchers from Washington State University recently concluded that the two parties can agree on at least one thing, and that one thing is renewable energy.
They found that Americans from across the political spectrum and of all ages and gender are all in favor of renewable energy.
The new study, published in the journal Environmental Politics, was conducted by Christine Horne, a professor of sociology at WSU, and Emily Kennedy, a former WSU sociology professor who is currently at the University of British Columbia, Canada.
Although Republicans (conservatives) and Democrats (liberals) are inclined to disagree on many environmental issues, they agree that developing renewable energy, including solar power, is financially smart and brings us one step closer to energy self-sufficiency, the researchers found.
“I think anyone who is paying attention to our current political climate might be interested to see there is an area of common ground,” Horne said in a statement. “Marketing renewable energy as a way to be more self-sufficient is a message that would appeal to both liberals and conservatives.”
The study involved both in-person interviews at the homes of 64 registered Democrats and Republicans across the state of Washington as well as a larger, nationally representative online survey.
In the live interviews, the researchers posed questions to elicit the participants’ views on people who installed solar panels or who engaged in other environmentally friendly acts as well as their own interest in installing solar panels.
In the online survey, the participants were only asked for their opinion of a local family that recently installed residential solar panels.
The researchers found that Republicans regard renewable energy as financially smart and a good use of resources.
Democrats also agree that renewable energy is financially smart and contributes to self-sufficiency.
But, to the Democrats, renewable energy is also tied to environmental protection, as it reduces carbon emissions and helps other people. That is not the case with Republicans.
Bridging the political divide
This research is important, as it could help ensure bipartisan support for investing in renewable energy.
“When it comes to climate change and other environmental issues, Democrats and Republicans often disagree,” Horne explained. “However, our results show both groups value renewable energy and self-sufficiency. We might be able to make more forward progress if our policies and advertising were to focus on these areas of agreement rather than the issues we don’t agree on.”
Susan Chu is a writer and editor who likes to write about trends in higher education.