Gallup: Partisan gaps widen over climate change
- A new Gallup poll shows that Americans' views on climate change are holding relatively steady, although concern is down slightly from last year. Partisan gaps on the issue have widened.
- The poll conducted in March shows that 43% of Americans "worry a great deal" about global warming, down from last year's record high of 45%. Those who think global warming will pose a serious threat in their lifetime is up to a record 45%, compared with 42% last year. Respondents who believe global warming is caused by human activities is 64%, down from 68%, and 60% believe the effects of global warming has already begun, compared with the record high 62% last year.
- Larger gaps now exist between Republicans' and Democrats' beliefs on global warming. For example, the percentage of Republicans who believe the effects of climate change have begun dropped from 41% to 34%, and the percentage of Democrats increased from 73% to 82%.
Americans' concerns about global warming have fluctuated significantly over the past two decades, according to Gallup, and some of the swings appear to coincide — at least in part — with political shifts on the issue. Al Gore's 2006 release of his book, "An Inconvenient Truth," is believed to have influenced opinion, as is President Trump's view on climate change.
President Trump has called climate change a hoax and has acted on that belief, such as by pulling out of the Paris climate agreement, proposing cuts to climate and clean energy programs and dropping climate change from the list of national security threats. Trump has been called a divisive leader and that appears to be the case with climate change, considering that in the new Gallup poll, Republicans and Democrats each showed measurable swings in their reported thoughts on climate change a year after he took office. The partisan divide was also evident in previous years, but has intensified.
Gallup also tracks the level of concern for each group and puts survey respondents into three categories: concerned believers, cool skeptics and mixed middle. This year, 48% are considered concerned believers, 19% are cool skeptics and 32% are mixed middle. That indicates that about one-third of respondents hold a combination of views about climate change and perhaps aren't as adamant about certain beliefs. However, when looking at political parties, Democrats skew more toward strong beliefs and Republicans are more split. About 80% of Democrats are concerned believers, but among Republicans, 45% are cool skeptics and 38% are mixed middle.
An interesting point to note is that those who identified as an independent rather than a Democrat or Republican generally skewed toward the direction Republicans responded to each question. For example, the number of independents who believe climate change effects have begun, believe global warming is caused by human activities and worry a lot about climate change all have dropped, as did Republicans' numbers, but Democrats' numbers increased.
Other differences in climate change views exist beyond just political parties. Women, college graduates and younger Americans are more likely to be concerned believers. This has been consistent in polls for several years.
Despite the slight dips in some of the numbers regarding overall concern, the percentages still remain at near-record levels, and climate change concern generally has increased since about 2015. Gallup points to the increasing prevalence of extreme weather and record-breaking temperatures as a factor increasing public awareness about and belief in climate change.
- The Washington Post Partisan split on climate grows, even as U.S. fears are on the rise, poll finds
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