Poll suggests solar issues helped sway Nev. Senate race

Source: Nick Bowlin, E&E News reporter • Posted: Monday, November 28, 2016

Uncertainty abounds in the renewable energy industry in the days following President-elect Donald Trump’s victory, but a survey released today suggests green energy remains a salient issue with voters — and may have decided one key Senate race (ClimateWire, Nov. 15).

In the race for retiring Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid’s (D) seat in Nevada, former state Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto (D) beat Rep. Joe Heck (R) by about 2 points, and a postelection survey conducted for environmental groups shows that Heck’s voting record on solar energy and ties to the Koch brothers and fossil fuel interests may have decided the race.

“Joe Heck’s position on energy … had a real and significant impact on the results of the race,” said Andrew Baumann, senior vice president of research at Global Strategy Group, a Democratic polling firm that conducted the survey.

The poll found that 60 percent of voters had a favorable view of Nevada’s solar energy industry; 56 percent supported “protecting and expanding solar energy to help create jobs in Nevada”; and, perhaps most importantly in such a tight race, 62 percent of voters said critiques of Heck’s energy record were a convincing reason not to vote for him. This was tied with Heck’s record on voting to defund Planned Parenthood as the top reason to vote against the Republican candidate.

The poll was conducted at the behest of a handful of environmental groups that ran a series of ads highlighting Heck’s opposition to solar energy and the millions of dollars in campaign support he received from fossil fuel interests. The ads, run by the League of Conservation Voters, Sierra Club and EDF Action, seem to have worked. Fifty-four percent of voters surveyed recalled the anti-Heck ads even though none was run the last two weeks of the campaign.

The poll of 800 general voters was taken Nov. 8-14 and had a 3.5-point margin of error.

Clay Schroers, the national campaigns director at LCV, thinks this strategy will work in other states.

“These messages work when voters are able to see the direct opportunities in renewable energy,” he said.

The survey also suggests renewable issues matter to Latino voters. About 71 percent of those surveyed for the poll believed Nevada’s solar industry should be a priority for their elected officials, and 72 percent said Heck’s solar record was a reason to vote against him. Cortez Masto won Nevada’s Latino vote by 47 points.