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Melissa Hussain: we can persuade disengaged voters of conservative environmentalism

We have disengaged voters and we can engage them

on conservative environmentalism.

Melissa Hussain (CEN Academy attendee and CEN supporter)

Some causes of disengagement, which we can alleviate, are a lack of education, voters’ socioeconomic background, and a lack of consensus among environmental experts, which breeds voter distrust in this area of policy. One caveat is that right-wing voters increasingly care about protecting the climate and environment. Using what I learned from CEN’s summer academy, I offer tips on how we can use this opening to garner support for conservative environmentalism. 

Climate change and environmental policies is a difficult area of policy to comprehend for two main reasons. 

Firstly, the specialist science involved in understanding climate and environmental problems are often to a high level of knowledge in the natural sciences, such as physics, biology, chemistry, as well as mathematics. 

Secondly, climate and environmental policymakers are interested in the future of our climate. If we continue at our current trajectory, policymakers want to know the consequences.  Moreover, policymakers try to predict the effect of climate policies, to compare which policies are the best among alternatives. Political and natural scientists often marvel at how difficult it is to extrapolate from current data to form predictions about the future. 

Studies from political scientists reveal that working-class voters are less likely to vote, send letters to their politicians, protest, and more generally, participate in politics (see Geoffrey Evans and James Tilley’s book on “the political exclusion of the British working class”). Given the complexity of climate and environmental policies, we must persuade voters using language they understand.

Moreover, climate protests have encouraged a new wave of scholarly literature on “New Politics” suggesting that climate change is more prominent on political agendas, because of grassroots activism. Conservative environmentalists are persuading voters using language they know best, often by empowering local communities.  

At CEN’s summer academy, held in scenic Oxford, we heard from David Powell (Senior Engagement Advisor at Climate Outreach) on engaging voters with conservative environmentalism. Here are tips.

Connect with people’s values and identity.

Recognising that people have a sense of obligation toward their social groups can be used to frame the reasons we give to voters to support conservative environmental policies. If a voter knows that someone with their shared identity cares about climate change, they are more likely to care about the climate. If their local politicians have furthered the cause for conservative environmentalism, tell the voter more on what was achieved.

Use normal communication methods.

It is not common practice to protest on streets or to abuse voters, for disagreeing with you, via social media. Just as we might persuade our friends to try a new meal, we can persuade voters on the doorstep to support conservative environmental policies. Conversations work best if they are respectful, personal, and informed. 

Inform voters about meaningful action that has or will be taken.

When persuading voters of policy achievements and the feasibility of future policy, it is best to inform them about policies they can understand well. By “understand well”, we mean the voter should understand why the policy has been effective. In the short space of time on the doorstep, try to gauge whether the voter will understand what “nuclear energy” entails, for example, or what another technical term means. 

Overall, voters decide who they support based on their values, identity, and experiences. As pragmatic conservatives, we can persuade our convictions to disengaged voters.


Views expressed in this blog are those of the author, not necessarily those of the Conservative Environment Network. If you are a CEN supporter, councillor, or parliamentarian and would like to write for the CEN blog, please email your idea to


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