Global warming still a partisan issue

The latest Gallup Poll on attitudes toward climate change has a disturbing message for advocates of strong policies either to limit greenhouse gas emissions or to promote effective adaptation. Forty-one percent of respondents think that news coverage generally exaggerates the seriousness of global warming, the highest number since Gallup started asking the question in 1997. Worse, the partisan divide continues to grow — 66% of Republicans and 44% of independents, but only 22% of Democrats think coverage of global warming is overblown.

In addition, overall concern about global warming is down. Given a list of environmental problems, 60% of respondents reported that they personally worry at least a fair amount about global warming, but that was down from 66% a year ago, and put global warming at the bottom of the eight environmental problems the poll asked about (just below extinction of plants and animals). And although 53% believe global warming is already occurring, that’s down from 61% last year and a record high number (16%) say it will never occur. A strong majority (60%) think global warming will not pose a serious threat to them or their way of life during their lifetime.

None of this bodes well for the prospects of strong climate change legislation in the short term. The only bright spot in the survey is that young adults (18-29) are least likely to think that claims of global warming are exaggerated.

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Reader Comments

3 Replies to “Global warming still a partisan issue”

  1. It’s easy to understand that climate change might be lower on the priority list for many people given the economic crisis. It’s less clear why people are seeing the problem as exaggerated or even non-existent. Is this attributable to talk radio or advertising by industry? It would be nice to have some demographic breakdowns on this as well.

  2. From Gallup: “Notably, all of the past year’s uptick in cynicism about the seriousness of global warming coverage occurred among Americans 30 and older. The views of 18- to 29-year-olds, the age group generally most concerned about global warming and most likely to say the problem is underestimated, didn’t change.”

    Obviously we have a lot of work to do, but this poll doesn’t scare me as much as it does others. For one thing, it’s just one poll (and not to mention a Gallup poll). For another, in six of the seven other environmental issues that pollsters asked about, more than two-thirds of survey respondents reported worrying either a fair amount or a great deal. (The seventh, species extinction, polled at 65%, down a statistically insignificant 3% from last year). Many of these problems will be exacerbated by global warming. So it may be that a good chunk of respondents are worried about global warming, or at least would be worried if they knew more about its impacts on those issues they are worried about.

    And, lastly, at least it’s not 66% of Democrats and 22% of Republicans. After all, to borrow a line from Revenge of the Nerds, there are more of us than there are of them.

  3. Maybe those Pac Institute maps showing beachfront homes underwater in SD and Newport Beach will be convincing…unfortunately Venice, the Marina, and Playa are already represented.

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About Holly

Holly Doremus is the James H. House and Hiram H. Hurd Professor of Environmental Regulation at UC Berkeley. Doremus brings a strong background in life sciences and a comm…

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