Longtermism and the American voter
Data for Progress polling finds that policies that protect our future draw widespread support
This piece was originally published on the Data for Progress website.
Longtermism is the view that positively impacting the long-term future is a key moral priority of our time. Advocates of longtermism focus on preventing worst-case scenario outcomes that could damage the world we leave to our children, our grandchildren, and all future generations — including global pandemics, climate change, emerging technologies, and nuclear war.
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Issues affecting future generations often go unaddressed by politicians, who may fail to look beyond the next election cycle. Voters, however, consistently offer strong support for common-sense policies that can reduce catastrophic risks and make the world a better place for future generations.
In a recent poll conducted by Data for Progress, 75 percent of voters, including majorities of both Democrats and Republicans, want greater funding for research and manufacturing to prevent future pandemics. President Biden recently put forward a $65 billion plan to prevent pandemics, though it is unclear if it will be signed into law. Experts say there is a 50/50 chance of another global pandemic as devastating as COVID-19 occurring in the next 25 years and a substantial probability of a pandemic that is far worse.
Longtermists are also particularly concerned about military conflict between global powers — especially those nations with nuclear weapons. A nuclear conflict between the United States and Russia, for example, could kill hundreds of millions of people — or even cause the collapse of global civilization, causing suffering for untold generations. Given these risks, it’s no surprise that voters from both parties prefer diplomacy over direct military action in Russia.
Data for Progress polling also finds that voters want our country to invest more in reliable clean energy in order to prevent climate change and reduce environmental damage. Climate change is already causing disruptive weather events in the U.S., and its effects on poorer countries are particularly dire. Economists have estimated that India is already 31 percent poorer than it otherwise would be if not for climate change. Without ambitious efforts to expand clean energy production, the negative impacts of climate change will only grow, posing long term risks to the stability of our civilization.
Advocates of longtermism push for increased focus on preventing pandemics, reducing the risk of catastrophic wars, and investing in clean energy — all of which receive bipartisan support from voters. Policies that protect our future are political winners.