How do Americans’ political affiliations impact their beliefs about climate change and what should be done about it?
A study by researchers from the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University sheds some light on this question.
After evaluating attitudes and beliefs about climate change from 1010 respondents (39% were Democrats, 25% were Independents, 24% were Republicans, and 12% were Tea Party members) the researchers came to these conclusions:
- 78% of Democrats, 71% of Independents and 53% of Republicans believe global warming is happening. Just 34% of Tea Party members believe global warming is happening; 53% of those in the Tea Party say it is not happening.
- 62% of Democrats say global warming is caused mostly by human activities, while those from the Tea Party say it is either naturally caused (50%) or isn’t happening at all (21%).
- 55% of Democrats say most scientists think global warming is happening, while 56% of Republicans and 69% of Tea Party members say there is a lot of disagreement among scientists about whether or not global warming is happening.
- Almost half of the Democrats (45%) say that global warming is already harming people in the United States. 33% of Republicans and 51% of Tea Party members say it will never harm people in the United States.
- Tea Party members feel they are most informed about climate change and “are also much more likely to say they ‘do not need any more information’ about global warming to make up their mind” (take a look at the table on page 11 of the report to see the breakdown).
The researchers also asked respondents about their support for various energy and climate change mitigation policies. These are some of the key findings:
- Majorities of Democrats, Independents and Republicans support the idea of requiring electric utilities to produce at least 20% of their electricity from renewable energy sources, even if it costs the average household an extra $100 a year. A majority of Tea Party members oppose this policy (39% strongly opposed).
- Majorities of Democrats, Independents and Republicans support an international treaty to cut carbon dioxide emissions. A large majority of Tea Party members (55%) are against such a treaty.
- A majority of Democrats oppose building more nuclear power plants (65%), while majorities of Independents (52%), Republicans (62%) and Tea Party members (67%) support building them. But, Tea Party respondents were the only ones in the majority (52%) when it came to showing support for actually building a nuclear power station in their neighborhood.
With regards to views on how environmental protection affects the economy and jobs:
“Majorities of all four groups say that protecting the environment either improves economic growth and provides new jobs or has no effect on economic growth or jobs,” the researchers write. However, Tea Party members are most likely to say environmental protection decreases economic growth and costs jobs (33%).
So, if you find yourself out to tea with a card carrying Tea Party member and the conversation turns to climate change and environmental policy, you are now prepared (based on this report) for how he or she might generally react. There’s a 50% chance the Tea Party supporter will deny the existence of global warming. At the same time, there’s a nearly 70% chance he or she will tell you that scientists disagree about global warming. If you try to provide evidence of global warming, it’s very likely said Tea Party member will shut you down, saying he or she does not need any further information and their mind is already made up.
However, if you’re a Democrat, Republican or Independent, chances are the Tea Party member will far more readily accept the construction of a nuclear power plant in the vicinity of his or her home than you will.