U.S. Public on Global Warming: "Been There, Done That, No Big Issue"

By Chris Mooney | March 17, 2011 8:58 am

Gallup has new data on the public and climate change; and I’ve devoted my latest DeSmogBlog piece to discussing it. Let’s just say the latest news is not….good:

Public concern about climate change, Gallup reports, is “stable at lower levels”—just 51 percent say they worry significantly about global warming, down from 66 percent in 2007. If you don’t think that the rise of an ever-more-assured climate denialism in Congress is tied to those numbers, you don’t know politics.

As usual, the latest survey also underscores the depth of the partisan divide on the climate issue. Democrats are 40 percentage points more likely to worry about global warming than Republicans, and 35 percentage points more likely to agree with scientists that global warming is human caused. Republicans, meanwhile, are 45 percentage points more likely to claim global warming is exaggerated in the news. Lovely.

You can read the full Gallup results here and my full DeSmogBlog commentary here.

P.S.: I’m about to head out of the country for a friend’s wedding. My blogging will probably be light to nonexistent for a week, but Sheril will be here…

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Comments (9)

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  1. Hubris « thinklovesurvive | March 17, 2011
  1. President Obama made no mention of the climate change crisis in his State of the Union Address as Obama knows that the majority of Liberal voters are now former climate change believers. But that DOES NOT mean the Republican deniers won anything since the neocons will always put environmental protection last. So we are left with the same battles of finding new energy, continued pollution controls, population control, environmental awareness, clean water management and promising our children that we will all them a sustainable planet.

  2. This seems like a “duh” question to me.

    2007 is pre-recession. A significant number of people who would worry about climate change don’t, because they’re too busy worrying about their mortgage payment (or their re-possessed house).

    The gallup page happens to be under maintenance as I write this, so I can’t look more closely at the numbers (or the associated questions), but my first instinct is that I would expect the portion of people to express “concern” to have dropped, as personal circumstances have (on average) taken a turn for the worse.

  3. Nullius in Verba

    #3,

    Is there a limit to the number of things people can worry about? Or do you mean that only the prosperous and secure worry about things like the environment?

    Do Republicans worry about the recession more than Democrats?

  4. anon

    You mean that conservatives oppose the theory that everything that the political goals of the liberal left are embodied in the physical order?

  5. Jon

    One thing to think of, though: according to a recent poll, 51% of Republicans believe Obama is not even a US citizen. So it’s not surprising that AGW denialism would grow as well.

    The other factor is that people take their cues from elites. For a lot of people, all they see is that legislation didn’t get passed. So the low information voter sees this and might assume that since their political leaders didn’t take action, it must not be that serious. They know nothing about a minority of senators all getting together in unprecedented ways and blocking everything so normal legislating doesn’t work.

  6. jason suggs

    #3 I dont agree that the decline in concern over GW/CC is attributable to the crash of the economy. Since GW is an economic threat, it ought to compound economic worry like a kind of perfect storm.

    Rather, I suspect that the decline in GW worry is due to climategate, which while not much reported in much of the media did put a damper of GW reportage. Public fears must constantly be fanned to be sustained. Once GW reportage was dampened, belief in GW declined.

    Short of some obvious climactic crisis such as a Depression scale dust bowl, I dont expect a return to 2007 levels of concern because worry/fear, once subsided seldom rekindles.

  7. TTT

    #4: Is there a limit to the number of things people can worry about? Or do you mean that only the prosperous and secure worry about things like the environment?

    Yes and yes–and you’d be surprised how big a grouping “things like the environment” is.

    People in the midst of financial ruin can barely think about how they’re going to pay next month’s mortgage, let alone how to send little Samantha off to college in five years, let VERY alone what sacrifices they ought to take today to offset unpredictable climate change impacts 40 years from now. It has no more to do with the environment than it has to do with, say, building libraries. There will definitely be an increase in “issue abandonment” as more people have to confront more urgent bread-and-butter crises. This is the story of mankind’s relationship with the environment overall and always has been: hunger leads, the brain follows if it is able.

    #7: I dont agree that the decline in concern over GW/CC is attributable to the crash of the economy. Since GW is an economic threat, it ought to compound economic worry like a kind of perfect storm.

    See above. Not everybody even grasps that GW is an economic threat, or how it possibly could be one, and even if they did, there’s still the timing factor working against us.

    Rather, I suspect that the decline in GW worry is due to climategate, which while not much reported in much of the media did put a damper of GW reportage

    Chris posted some studies here showing that “Climategate” didn’t significantly change anybody’s mind on global warming; rather, it magnified the impressions people already had. This is one case where general scientific illiteracy actually worked in the environmentalists’ favor for once: the Climategate hoax is based on such arcane minutia that most people aren’t interested in tracking it, and once you cross the threshold of the intellectual involvement necessary to get worked up about it, you’re going to find more and more people who are devoted enough that they can see the falsehood of the story. It’s sort of like the denialist books of Bjorn Lomborg or Michael Crichton: John Q. doesn’t read them, so they mostly exist to antagonize the scientists getting slimed. That’s as fun as spite’s own sake can be, I guess, but it doesn’t shift public opinion.

  8. Jon

    Franklin Foer in TNR on Irving Kristol’s recently published essays:

    We are still living in the world of total ideological combat that Irving Kristol created (or re-created, since it was also the world into which he was born) in the course of renovating conservatism—where every shred of academic research, and the epistemological underpinnings of that research, is fiercely contested and happily politicized. He was the intellectual who ended the end-of-ideology, who knocked the expert off the throne from which he had governed for nearly half a century.

    http://www.tnr.com/article/books-and-arts/85332/ideas-rule-the-world

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About Chris Mooney

Chris is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science--dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by Salon.com and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American--Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write "The Intersection" blog together for Discover blogs.For a longer bio and contact information, see here.

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