Pollster: Opinion Tipping Point on Climate

August 18, 2016

Bloomberg (october 2015):

Three-quarters of Americans now accept the scientific consensus on climate change, the highest level in four years of surveys conducted by the University of Texas at Austin. The biggest shocker is what’s happening inside the GOP. In a remarkable turnabout, 59 percent of Republicans now say climate change is happening, up from 47 percent just six months ago.


Joe Romm at Climate Progress:

A new public opinion survey finds that “Americans across political lines, except conservative Republicans, would support a presidential candidate who strongly supports taking action to reduce global warming.”

The survey of 1,004 registered voters by the Climate Change Communication programs at Yale and George Mason University yielded a number of important findings consistent with earlier polling this year by Gallup.

The new survey found a growing number of registered voters understand global warming is happening: “Three in four (73%, up 7 points since Spring 2014) now think it is happening. Large majorities of Democrats — liberal (95%) and moderate/conservative (80%) — think it is happening, as do three in four Independents (74%, up 15 points since Spring 2014) and the majority of liberal/moderate Republicans (71%, up 10 points).”

Unfortunately for the GOP, while conservative Republicans generally indicate they’re more likely to vote for this kind of climate-science-denying candidate (+10 percentage points), “Democrats, Independents and liberal/moderate Republicans are much less likely to vote” for such a candidate by -63, -31, and -24 percentage points respectively.

So the right-wing denial machine has put the GOP in a box. Candidates running for the Republican nomination may feel there is a benefit to embracing climate denial if they want to “win the conservative vote” — but such candidates will suffer with every other voter group, particularly if they are running against someone who embraces climate action.


Dana Nuccitelli in the Guardian:

Clearly, The Republican War on Science’s politicization thesis is being strongly validated—a thesis that attributes the problem to the growth of a modern conservative movement, its need to appease its core interest groups and constituencies (corporate America, conservative Christians), its need to have its own alternative expertise and journalism (think tanks, Fox, Limbaugh), and so on … as the “New Right” emerged in the U.S. in the wake of the cultural battles of the 1960s and 1970s, it mobilized strong forces of authoritarianism–e.g., psychological rigidity and closed-mindedness.

Indeed, authoritarians favor Donald Trump, whose supporters have considerable overlap with climate science denial. Robert Brulle’s research into the ‘dark money’ funding climate denial also helps explain the problem. The Republican Party has become increasingly dependent upon corporate funding and support, which is heavily skewed in the direction of climate denial. The near-total abandonment of party leadership on the climate issue has sent a signal to Republican voters – climate change isn’t a concern, and anyone saying otherwise is part of the hoax.

The growth of this anti-science strain of the Republican Party thus seems to stem from multiple sources: increased party reliance on the religious right and corporate interests, and the growth of a right-wing media echo chamber that feeds anti-scienceconspiratorial thinking.

However, there is good news. For one, climate denial is largely limited to a small and dwindling group of old, white, male conservatives; hence, it’s not a tenable long-term position for the Republican Party. Like opposition to gay marriage, science denial is a position that will increasingly alienate young voters in particular, who will bear the brunt of the consequences of climate inaction.

Key findings Climate Change and the American Mind (Marc 2016):

Since spring 2015, the number of Americans who think global warming is happening has increased by seven percent.  70% now say it’s happening.  This figure nearly matches the highest level we’ve measured (71%) since we began conducting our surveys in November 2008. Worry about global warming is also on the rise, with a larger majority (now at 58%) saying they are “somewhat” or “very” worried about the issue.

The increase is driven by a five percent uptick since last spring in people who now say they are “very worried” about global warming. Americans increasingly view global warming as a threat. Since last spring, more Americans think it will harm people in developing countries (63%, +10 points), people in the U.S. (59%, +10 points), future generations (70%, +7 points), and themselves personally (41%, +5 points). A record high 38% of Americans think people in the U.S. are being harmed “right now” (+6 points).



3 Responses to “Pollster: Opinion Tipping Point on Climate”

  1. Sean Munger Says:

    This is very interesting and encouraging. I recently completed teaching a class on the history of climate change. One of the discussion questions I gave to the class at the end (after they read the Exxon documents and Mann’s “Climate Wars” book) was whether they thought denial was a good long-term strategy for fossil fuel companies and political interests. All of them, every one, thought denial as a phenomenon was terminally dwindling–to be sure, many believed it would always be out there, but that it would soon become relegated to a fringe belief in the vein of “the Earth is flat” and “9/11 was an inside job” theories only believed by a tiny nub of crackpots. All of these students were millennials. Their own beliefs on climate change were pretty close to what’s reflected in this poll, so I think the trends we’re seeing here are accurate.

  2. indy222 Says:

    Now the next frontier is conviction that climate change is not only real and human caused, but that only vastly superhuman efforts will prevent permanent disaster – as in the unavoidable melting of the permafrost (Vaks et al, 2013, Lawrence et al 2008), the era of Super Storms (Katrina was nothing) and multi-meter sea level rise drowing the great cities of the Earth, seen by Hansen et al.’s climate modelling and Eemian evidence, the realization that economic growth and happiness for all 7 billion of us is absolutely incompatible with stable atmospheric CO2 levels, even with much faster decarbonization than we have yet seen, by factors of several (Garrett’s papers; start with 2015 for working backwards to original 2011 papers), etc….

    Climate change has gotten to the point it’s noticeable to average folk. Only when average folk SEE catastrophic climate change (vs. sad headlines happening to someone else in an isolated place). and has become the norm, will people give up their delusions of an easy path to a happy climate future, and politicians then might be forced into action. By then, of course, it’ll be far too late to do anything. Unlike any other challenge humans have faced, an appreciation of forward thinking and prediction is essential. We can’t wait till there are only 12 California condors left, and THEN work to save them. Mother Nature’s laws doesn’t give a rat’s ass about anyone’s feelings or sentiments about “you-got-yours-and-now-I-want-mine before we even talk about sacrifice”.

  3. Gingerbaker Says:

    Why do you think more people supposedly now believe in AGW? Think it is because we have been arguing with liars about facts for ten years now?

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