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Young Republicans tried to focus GOP presidential contenders to act on climate change

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

A recent survey finds a majority of registered voters wants political candidates to act against climate change. That includes some Republicans, although the Republican percentages tend to be lower. A group of young conservatives is using New Hampshire's primary to urge candidates to be conservative with the planet. Here's Mara Hoplamazian of New Hampshire Public Radio.

MARA HOPLAMAZIAN, BYLINE: At a brewery in Manchester last week, prospective voters gathered to hear New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu talk about GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley's approach to addressing climate change.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CHRIS SUNUNU: Making that transition, investing in those technologies, making sure those things happen - it's not climate change denial. It's not a climate change extremism. It's allowing that free market to happen as best as it possibly can.

HOPLAMAZIAN: Sununu, who endorsed Haley, showed up on her behalf at an event hosted by the American Conservation Coalition. It's a national advocacy group focused on conservative approaches to taking action on climate change. Organizers say former President Donald Trump, the Republican presidential front-runner, did not respond to an invitation to schedule his own event. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who suspended his campaign Sunday, declined. But despite lukewarm interest from candidates, Brian Martinez, who leads the eastern division for the group, says climate change is something conservative voters nationally are paying attention to, especially younger ones.

BRIAN MARTINEZ: Young people overwhelmingly believe that climate change is real because we're seeing it. I grew up in Wisconsin. I can't tell you the last time I had a white Christmas.

HOPLAMAZIAN: Polling from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication shows about 13% of conservative Republicans say they'd prefer to vote for a candidate that supports climate action. Almost half of liberal or moderate Republicans say the same. Republicans who are concerned about climate change tend to be younger. And Martinez says that's important for politicians to keep in mind.

MARTINEZ: Candidates don't need to be the climate candidate. But they need to realize that if they're going to win young people, they're going to need to come to the table on climate.

HOPLAMAZIAN: Coming to the table on climate could be more important than ever. Last year was the hottest year on record by a long shot. That's according to measurements from federal agencies. Trump continues to deny facts about climate change, but Martinez says he's optimistic about Haley as a choice for younger, climate-focused Republicans.

MARTINEZ: Ambassador Haley has gone on the record, you know, saying climate change is real and wants to do something about it.

HOPLAMAZIAN: Haley has acknowledged climate change is real. But in New Hampshire, she's promoted expanding fossil fuel use, the main cause of human-driven climate change.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

NIKKI HALEY: We will make sure our pipelines are moving. We will do the Keystone Pipeline. We'll export as much liquefied natural gas as we can.

HOPLAMAZIAN: There are other options for voters concerned about the environment, like voting for Democrats who've increasingly pushed for climate action. But for first-year Dartmouth student Jack Marino, he's hoping to see climate change solutions that align with his economic and social views as a conservative. He says he and his peers want Republican leadership on climate.

JACK MARINO: Denying climate change, especially for young conservatives, causes serious problems. Embracing the climate crisis, finding these pragmatic solutions, appeals to young conservatives, especially in New Hampshire.

HOPLAMAZIAN: But in New Hampshire, like other parts of the country, for many voters, economic issues are crowding out everything else. Twenty-four-year-old Claire Murphy says her first choice was DeSantis, but now she'll support Trump. She's living with her mom.

CLAIRE MURPHY: I can't even move out on my own right now because, like, the apartment rent is so high. And, like, everything is so high.

HOPLAMAZIAN: Murphy says she thinks it's important for young people to be aware of environmental issues, but she's not voting on them. For NPR News, I'm Mara Hoplamazian in Concord, N.H.

(SOUNDBITE OF GOODNESS GRACIOUS ME!'S "MIRAJ") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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