The Ever Growing Partisan Divide Over Global Warming

By Chris Mooney | April 20, 2011 10:45 am

My latest DeSmogBlog item is about the depressing results from a comprehensive new public opinion study by Aaron McCright and Riley Dunlap. Basically, the headline findings are:

1. Democrats (liberals) and Republicans (conservatives) have vastly different degrees of acceptance of climate science.
2. The two groups are growing more polarized, not less so.
3. Education or self-described understanding of the issue doesn’t make it better–if you’re a Republican.

All very consistent with my motivated reasoning piece, of course. Head on over to DeSmogBlog for a much more thorough discussion of McCright’s & Dunlap’s findings.


Comments (6)

  1. Jon

    It will be interesting to see what Mitt Romney does as a presidential candidate. He’s branding himself as the “reasonable” candidate to the left of the tea party.

  2. Steve Bonser

    Its important that people understand that the “debate” about climate change, global warming, etc. is only continuing here in the U.S., a country that increasingly is falling behind other western industrialized nations when it comes to enlightened public discourse. Throughout the rest of the world, governments, politicians, the media and the public completely understand that the days of this topic being a political hot potato ended some years ago. Due the poor quality of news reportage here in America, the willfully ignorant position of a certain political party and the dangerous propaganda of a television news network called Fox, a fake ideological war has been ginned up over this issue, the results of which is doing little beside making us the laughingstock of intelligent people everywhere. Being uninformed or uneducated is one thing, but being stupid for the sake of buttressing a conservative political agenda is another thing entirely.

  3. Dave

    I wonder what the correlation is between one’s religiosity and his or her acceptance of climate change. It’s probably more stark than the chart shown above.

  4. Good question, Dave. I suspect the religious/social conservatives and the political/fiscal conservatives both use denialism to call “junk” any science they find disagreable.

  5. They looked at 10 years of Gallup polling on the issue, and found a steady march in opposite directions for the two parties

    That’s not what your chart says.

    What those data say is that liberals have always been more likely to believe in global warming than conservatives (by about 20 points), but that both groups were becoming more accepting of the scientific consensus over time.

    Until 2009, when conservative opinion suddenly shifted by 15 points. That is not a steady march in opposite directions. That’s an abrupt shift, entirely on the part of the conservatives, undoubtedly directly related to the massive losses by the Republican party in November 2008. This is reflected in the 180 degree change in statements by leading Republicans on the issue. Pawlenty, Gingrich, Palin, and Romney had all advocated reductions in greenhouse gases as a solution to the problem as recently as 2007. Most supported cap-and-trade. Now they all claim it would destroy the economy.

    Opposition to climate science among conservatives has nothing to do with the science itself and no amount of evidence is going to change their minds in the near future.

  6. Nullius in Verba

    “That’s not what your chart says.”

    The chart represents the percentage who believe that the effects of global warming has already started to happen by political ideology. The same question divided by party affiliation shows Democrats shifting more. The chart of belief that changes over the last century are mostly due to human activity by party affiliation shows a much steadier decline. And the charts showing the amount of worry show a big jump up on the part of liberals.


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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 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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