Support for climate action and environmental protections is gaining ground despite the early success of the GOP’s disinformation efforts. These polls reveal an ever expanding gulf between the views of Americans and the ruling Republican administration. While polls show that a growing number of Americans, including Republicans, increasingly acknowledge the veracity of climate change, President Donald Trump and members of his administration deny the facts.
In response to his own government’s report Trump said, “I don’t believe it,” and Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, it’s “not based on facts”. For, Trump and GOP anti-science climate denial is doctrine. In the first year of this administration they succeeded in convincing millions of Republicans that climate change is not caused by human activities.
The GOPs disinformation efforts have resonated with Republicans. According to a Gallup poll the number of Republicans that believed in anthropogenic climate change at the start of the Trump administration’s term was 40 percent, by March 2018 it dropped to 33 percent. However, these disinformation efforts have not succeeded with Democrats. Their belief in anthropogenic global warming has increased from 87 percent to 89 percent during the same time frames.
Americans are divided along partisan lines which supports the contention that disinformation campaigns work with Republicans but not Democrats. According to a Pew Research poll there has been a 22 percent decline in the number of Republicans who think environmental regulations are worth the cost (58% in 2007 and 36% in 2017). More than twice as many Democrats support environmental protections and renewable energy (68% of Democrats vs 32% of Republicans).
It is interesting to note that the Pew survey shows that in 2001 roughly the same percentage of Americans from both parties supported scientific research. However, after more than a decade and a half of disinformation support from Republicans declined substantially compared to Democrats.
Despite the successful disinformation efforts of the GOP there is evidence to suggest the tides may be turning. According to another Pew survey conducted earlier this year, 63 percent of U.S. adults say stricter environmental regulations are “worth the cost,” up from 59 percent two years ago. What is really interesting is the finding that support for environmental regulations is also increasing among Republicans, with 45 percent saying the cost of environmental regulations is worth it compared to 36 percent in 2017.
Perhaps the most troubling poll for the GOP’s disinformation efforts is the finding that most Americans do not buy the Republican position on climate change. According to a February 2019 NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, almost two-thirds of Americans say that the Republican Party’ position on climate change is “outside the mainstream”. This is an increase of almost 10 percentage points since the question was last asked in 2015.
According to a March, 2019 Gallup poll, 65 percent of Americans prioritize the environment compared to 30 who do not. This is the largest pro-environment margin since 2000. This represent an 8 point increase from 2018. Younger people (under 35) prioritize the environment more than do older people (over 35).
Despite these surveys Republicans are still the largest group opposed to environmental protection with party affiliation being single biggest determinant. Eighty two percent of Democrats and 71 percent of independents said they prioritize environmental protection, versus only 35 percent of Republicans.
As reported in the Atlantic, several recent polls reveal that there is a nearly 10-point surge in concern about climate change among Americans. “We’ve not seen anything like that in the 10 years we’ve been conducting the study,” Anthony Leiserowitz, a researcher at Yale, told the Atlantic’s Robsinson Meyer.
Extreme weather events are driving concern about climate change. Depending on where you live, flooding, hurricanes, droughts, superstorms and Nor’easters are all making it hard for people to ignore climate change.
A poll by ecoAmerica and Lake Research Partners’ 2018 American Climate Metrics Survey indicates that 88 percent of Americans believe we have a moral responsibility to create a safe and healthy climate for ourselves and our children (87% Rural, 87% Suburban, and 90% Urban). Large majorities of Americans “across all community types believe urgent action is needed to reduce the pollution that is causing climate change. They also all believe that the U.S. should produce more wind and solar energy, and less coal. This consensus constitutes a strong foundation of public support for solutions,” the report said.
In terms of who Americans trust for guidance on the issue the study found that health professionals were the most trusted, followed by the media and local community leaders. Trust is lowest for the President and federal elected officials. It is interesting to note that rural Americans are twice as likely to trust the President than Urban Americans.
As reported by Wired, a Monmouth University poll suggests that the number of Republicans who accept the veracity of climate change is increasing. In 2016 less than half (49%) of Republicans accepted the reality of climate change, by last December that number rose to almost two thirds (63%).
A poll by Yale’s and George Mason University’s programs on climate change communication saw an 8 point increase in the number of Americans who are “very worried” about climate change. The survey found that 81 percent of Americans support the general concept of a green new deal including 57 percent of conservative Republicans.
Republicans will eventually be forced to embrace the facts about climate change, however, that pivot may come too late. As Meyer pointed out, “at some point, a crisis gets so bad that it becomes unignorable”. We may be crossing that threshold and it will expose decades of unconscionable disinformation from the GOP.
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