Poll: Pols Will Pay Price for Denial
October 22, 2013
Is it possible to make GOP lawmakers pay a political price for throwing in with the climate science deniers? The League of Conservation Voters is engaged in an interesting experiment designed to answer that question, running ads targeting GOP Senator Ron Johnson and a handful of House GOP lawmakers over their climate denialism.
The group’s operating theory: Denying what science says about threats to the fate of the planet should perhaps be, you know, a tiny bit politically problematic. GOP lawmakers pay a steep price for outsized claims about abortion or immigration. Why not about something as consequential as climate change?
Now the group has done a new poll that, it says, underscores that drawing attention to a public official’s climate science denialism does erode his or her public image. The group’s polling memo is right here. The group polled on Senator Johnson in the Green Bay, WI, media market — a swing area where its ads ran — before and after the ad buy. According to the memo:
52 percent of constituents who definitely recall the ads volunteer unfavorable impressions of Ron Johnson and his record in an open-ended (unprompted) question format, and most of the concerns they express relate directly to the content of the ads.
The memo also reports a 14-point increase in those who feel less favorable towards Johnson based on what they have heard about him; an eight point increase in his job disapproval; and an eight point boost in in constituents believing Johnson is out of step on climate change. (For more on Johnson, and the results the polling found on climate-denying House GOPers, read the whole memo.)
“Denying climate change science is something that, when you put it in front of voters, they stand up and take notice,” top Dem pollster Geoff Garin, who did the survey for the LCV, tells me. “We’re finding that when voters hear about an elected official denying basic climate science, it is consequential in the way they think about that person, both in terms of the issue itself, and in terms of larger conclusions voters draw about whether that official thinks the way they do.”
Below, bullet points from the memo:
The following are a few key examples of the impacts we measured in the media markets where the ads were run:
- In the Champaign media market, there was a net drop of 11 points in Rodney Davis’ approval rating.
- In the Green Bay media market, disapproval for Ron Johnson rose by eight points, and negative personal feelings toward Johnson rose by nine points.
- In the Traverse City and Marquette media markets, Dan Benishek’s net approval rating dropped by 11 points, and there was a 13-point increase in the proportion of constituents who say he is out of step with their views on climate change.
- For all four incumbents, including Mike Coffman, those who recall the advertising were much more likely to express negative opinions about the incumbent across metrics than those who did not recall the advertising.
- For all four incumbents, we measured large-scale movement among panelback respondents who were interviewed both before and after the advertising. In Mike Coffman’s district, for example, there was a 13-point jump among panelback respondents in the proportion expressing negative feelings toward him and a 14-point jump among the proportion saying he is too close to big oil.Clearly, these ads, and the topic at the heart of them, have a significant breakthrough quality. The unaided recall of the ads’ messages indicates that the issue of climate change denial has sufficient relevance to be memorable. The changes in broad metrics further indicate that denial of climate science is a politically significant criticism that affects an elected official’s standing with their constituents when he or she is held accountable for it.