Despite Fox News’ claims to the contrary, climate change was among top voter concerns during the recent 2022 midterm elections.
The issue of climate change took center stage during the general election for the first time in 2020. Since then, poll after poll has found that climate change is top of mind for many voters, and exit polls found that it was a key issue for 2022 midterm voters. Even Fox had to briefly acknowledge this reality, though it won’t likely have any material impact on the network’s climate coverage.
CNN’s exit poll found that 71% of voters stated that climate change is a “very serious” or “somewhat serious” problem, while 61% of voters in Fox News’ voter analysis survey were “very/somewhat concerned” about climate change. Regarding whether climate has become a viable election issue, InsideClimateNews suggested that “the political dynamics around climate in the 2022 midterms could stand out as a milestone.” Or as The New Republic summarized:
This year, more “climate voters,” people whose top issue is the climate crisis, showed up to cast ballots than in any other election in U.S. history. Exit polls show that, contrary to conventional Democratic consultant-class wisdom, climate was the top issue for 8 percent of voters, a share surpassed only by “inflation/economy,” immigration, and abortion (the latter two are tied at second place). You’d never guess it from media coverage, but climate and crime were tied for third place. The percentage of voters prioritizing climate had jumped by four points from 2020, the first year that voters were even asked at the polls about “climate” as opposed to “environment.” There are probably several factors behind this impressive showing.
Climate could play an important role in the Georgia Senate runoff election, especially among socially marginalized communities that have been bearing the brunt of climate-driven extreme weather events and environmental pollution. In addition to grassroots organizing efforts, Climate Monitor noted that “LCV [League of Conservation Voters] has already launched a new video ad supporting Sen. Raphael Warnock in his runoff election on December 6th. Environmental Voter Project is also already spending in Georgia’s Senate runoff.”
This belies Fox News’ attempts to downplay climate change as a concern for voters. This summer, the network, among other right-wing media outlets, cherry-picked data from a Siena College and New York Times poll to claim that Americans did not care about climate change. For example, the July 20 episode of America's Newsroom featured Kellyanne Conway, former White House counselor under President Donald Trump, claiming that President Joe Biden is focusing on climate and the poll shows voters “don't think that he's connected to them in a way that he is listening to them and hearing their concerns.”
During the July 24 episode of Fox & Friends Weekend, co-host Pete Hegseth claimed, “They're using the blue checkmark woke brigade to attempt to cudgel the White House to declare a crisis based on 1% of Americans who believe it’s their religion, which could change all of our lives, and change it rapidly, if he caves to groups like this.”
In the months and weeks leading up to the November 8 midterm elections, Fox News continued to downplay voter concerns about climate change. For example, during the September 14 episode of The Story With Martha MacCallum, Fox News correspondent Jacqui Heinrich led off a segment that attacked the climate provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act by using a Gallup poll to claim that “voters are far more concerned with the economy than they are with climate.” Fox News hosted commentator Angela Morabito on the September 27 episode of Fox News at Night, where she claimed that climate change was a “luxury problem” above a chyron that read “Midterm Motivators.”
During the September 30 episode of Hannity, Fox News host Sean Hannity claimed that if the midterms are a “referendum on Joe Biden, the failed climate cult, and their failed policies, and how they’ve wrecked all the progress that we made in the four years under Donald Trump, then they lose.”
After rattling off key provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act, Fox News host Sandra Smith asked her guests during the October 6 episode of America Reports if “Democrats may live to regret the day they pushed clean energy so hard in this moment when we’re not ready for the transition.”
However, after the midterm elections, Fox News had to acknowledge that climate was an important issue for voters. During the November 9 episode of America Reports, Smith briefly bowed to reality when confronted with the results of Fox News’ own survey: “When asked how concerned about climate change voters were, 61% said very or somewhat concerned, 39% not too concerned or not at all concerned,” she said. “Climate change was up there, and it was on the mind of voters when they head to the ballot box. So, is this a missed opportunity for Republicans to have some sort of messaging there for voters who care about this issue?”
Despite years of climate science denial and obfuscation, Fox News had to face the fact that voters care about climate change. The network will likely continue running interference for the fossil fuel industry, denying or downplaying how climate is driving extreme weather, and undermining the Biden administration's climate and energy policies, because it is less a news outlet and more a key cog in the fossil fuel industry’s disinformation network. Even though the veil of reality may slip on Fox News occasionally, it never stays down for long.