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Climate Change Most Popular Question Topic For Senate Candidates

U.S. Senate candidates for Indiana debate on Oct. 8. (Courtesy of the Indiana Debate Commission)

The Indiana Debate Commission received more questions about climate change for Monday night's Senate debate than any other topic. 

Nearly 15 percent of all of Senate debate questions contained the phrase “climate change.” Indiana Debate Commission president Gerry Lanosga, says that’s even more than the word “marijuana” — a popular subject in debates.

The commission doesn’t have hard data on past debate topics, but anecdotally Lanosga says climate change seems to be on people’s minds more this election cycle.

“I think it certainly reflects that there’s a growing sense of urgency among some subset of voters out there who really want to see this issue addressed,” he says.

Though some questions came in response to the recent report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Lanosga says most of the climate change questions were submitted prior to the report's release. 

Indiana University Environmental Communications scientist Nathan Geiger says research shows more people around the country are interested in climate change, but they don’t often talk about it — and that gets reflected in media coverage.

“A lot of the times these candidates are unsure if this is an important issue that they should be talking about,” he says. 

Voters who wanted to know how the Senate candidates would tackle climate change mostly came from university towns and tended to vote Democratic or independent. Though some of those independents said they often vote Republican.

The next U.S. Senate debate for Indiana candidates will take place on Oct. 30 in Indianapolis at 7 p.m. 

Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.

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